Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Shadow Play

Today I'm reviewing a movie I watched a while back, though with Halloween still fresh in people's minds, it feels appropriate to talk about now. What We Do in the Shadows is a movie about vampires, but it's quite unconventional. It's a mockumentary in which a New Zealand camera crew (protected by crucifixes, naturally) chronicles four vampires of various ages in their joint flatmate situation in Wellington. The vampires struggle with the modern world, their own vulnerabilities, and each others' personalities.

This quirky concoction comes from Jemaine Clement (one half of Flight of the Conchords) and Taika Waititi, who both wrote and directed the film, and each took a role on screen. Their comedic sensibilities are obviously all over the film, and you're either going to like them or not. The film runs less than an hour-and-a-half, but that's more than enough time for them to mine every nook and cranny of the premise. There are jokes about the different ways vampires have been portrayed over the years, jokes about the difficulty in finding prey (and even greater difficulty in finding good help), jokes about what it's like to live for hundreds of years, jokes about werewolves and vampire hunters.... if you can think of it, it's probably in there somewhere. And sometimes, it's laugh-out-loud funny.

But not all the time. It didn't occur to me at the time why I was "liking but not loving" the movie, but a probable theory has come to me upon reflection. The idea of treating horror with a comedy lens isn't exactly new, and some high bars to clear have actually been set in that not-as-niche-as-you-might-think genre. There's Scream, which playfully tweaked its nose at horror conventions while being a quite good horror movie itself. And even in the horror-mockumentary space, there's the wonderful Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon. What We Do in the Shadows is funny, but falls well short of those marks.

Still, this movie does tick off a lot of "if you liked THAT, you'll like THIS" boxes. Fake documentaries. Flight of the Conchords. Classic horror movies. Cheesy horror movies. There's a lot of avenues into liking this movie. Though probably not into loving this movie. I give it a B-. But if you're looking for a break from your usual Halloween traditions, you might give it a try.

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