RogerBW's Blog

What We Do in the Shadows 17 May 2015

2014 comedy, dir. and starring Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi: IMDb / allmovie

Four vampires share a flat in modern New Zealand. Comedy happens.

So basically it's "The Young Ones, if they were all vampires rather than students, and were being followed around by a reality-TV crew" – with a New Zealand horror sensibility: there's blood spatter and vomit here. That's a problem, though, because the documentary format means that no shot can look as though it's been carefully composed and there's not much in the way of spectacle, and there's no real plot, just a series of incidents.

"Vampires don't do dishes."

But without plot and spectacle there's only character on which to hang the comedy, and the characters are pretty thinly-drawn considering how complex someone hundreds of years old could be. This one went to New Zealand to follow his true love, but his coffin took eighteen months to arrive and by the time he got there she'd married someone else. That one thinks he's overpoweringly sexy. That said, it's just about enough, and the humour is refreshingly lacking in crudity. Am I alone in also seeing a certain amount of laughter in the face of a tragic situation, particularly when Viago is getting the girl he's about to kill to talk about her plans for the future?

"Just leave me to do my dark bidding on the Internet. (I'm bidding on a table.)"

It may have worked better as the original short film from 2005: the core concept that an eight-hundred-year-old loser is still a loser isn't hard to get across. The longer it takes, the more one starts to wonder why the equilibrium persists: why haven't the hunters killed all the vampires, or alternatively why haven't the vampires turned everyone? On the other hand I'm not particularly fascinated by the idea of vampires the way lots of people seem to be, so I'm starting from the position of seeing them as basically uninteresting rather than as Great Tragic Figures.

"Werewolves, not Swear-Wolves."

But that's a relatively minor objection. This isn't Spinal Tap, but it's of the same school, and does the same job, nearly as well. This Is Arterial Spray, perhaps.

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