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MOVIE REVIEW: What We Do In The Shadows

December 14th, 2014 by Conor ONeill Comments


What We Do in the Shadows (15)
Running time: 86 min
Directored by: Jemaine Clement & Taika Waititi
Starring: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi & Jonathan Brugh  |See full cast and crew »

New Zealand’s Wellington is home to 300 odd vampires, and here we are introduced to the shared house of four of them. Co-directed and co-written and co-starring Academy Award nominee, Taiki Waititi (2010’s Boy) and Flight of the Conchords co-star Jemaine Clement, this fast-paced movie runs from gag to gag and back again.

Waititi’s character, Viago, is a well-suited-and-booted 18th century dandy turned creature of the night and arguably the least skilled fang-mechanic ever to hit the silver screen. Forlorn in a quest hoping his true love of 70 years will come to her senses, Viago struts peacock-like from mishap to mishap with a panache worthy of the cult following this film will surely acquire. Fastidiously clean in his approach but not in method, he collects fine furniture from his younger years, puts newspaper on the floor and towels on the bed before every blood bath to keep him sated in a good-clean-bill of life after death.

Clement’s Vladislav the Poker carries through life with orgies as the norm and a self-confidence hiding his inner torment. Forever at the mercy of The Beast, represented on screen by Goya’s depiction of a giant eating a man alive, Vlad’s wit and corrupt look at modernity – as afflicts all of our endearing quartet – moves the comedy on with bracing results.

The unhygienic yet amiable Deacon, played by Jonathan Brugh, brings to the squad a charming innocence and settles the pace just a little in order to let the busy script and action down. Not that he’s not afraid of a scrap. And he must get round to doing those 500-year-old dishes.

Last and definitely not least enters Petyr, Ben Fransham, at over eight thousand years old and hardly uttering a word, he is however the stereotypical ancient vampire. With more tangled teeth than a Redneck’s critter BBQ, and nails in need of a NASA funded manicure, his menace brings one of the few jumps of the movie. With these characters all hailing from different eras and in Petyr’s case eons, this plethora of styles adds juxtapositions to stop this flick being one dimensional. Other characters play pivotal roles too. Nick, (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer), brings trouble to one and all, while our only human in the plot Stu (Stu Rutherford), introduces the unwitting crowd to the internet, mobile phones and the 21st century.

And what of the plot? Documentary makers follow our crew around wearing the necessary protective Crucifixes ahead of the upcoming Unholy Masquerade, an annual meeting of the undead. The story weaves round the dealings of the crew in their frantic murderous fix. Add in a show-down with possibly the most polite set of Werewolves in NZ: “We’re Werewolves not Swearwolves”, nicely placed special effects, exciting fight and chase scenes and the film rolls on. One comment must be made; it’s fantastic to watch a good wee story with a generous lemon twist of an ending coming in at only 85 minutes.

What’s more, both writers and directors rely on every vampire cliché and stereotype available. Be it fear of silver, vampire hunters or the lack of a reflection in the looking-glass, direct sunlight, Viago’s choice of bedding in a coffin or Deacon sleeping hanging upside down like a bat in a cave.

Overall a very good movie and undoubtedly one to be studied.  Wisely written, performed and directed piece of mock-doc, knowing and self-assured. For £6.50 you could spend your cash on weaker movies.

4 out of 5 nerds


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Conor O'Neill is at times a playwright and a qualified journalist. He has worked for the Belfast Telegraph, Portadown Times and South Belfast Advertiser. He also contributes to various online e-zines, specialising in theatre, gig reviews and other cultural events. If you were to ask him what he does, he will say 'I'm functioning'... that's a lie. Best suited to pressure and deadlines, O'Neill thrives on the moment, the passion and the thrill of now, he's only happy when he's watching or reviewing a play.

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