HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: What We Do In the Shadows
HTS Overall Score:78
Mockumentaries can be a bit hit or miss, but team of Jermaine Clement, Taika Waititit and Johnny Brugh together and you have a recipe for downright hilarity. The best way of describing “What We Do in the Shadows” is to say that it is a combination of Mel Brook’s “Dead and Loving It” with documentary style of film making. Tongue is firmly planted in cheek as Jermaine and Taika make a buddy buddy mockumentary about the joys, sorrows and trials of being a vampire in New Zealand. The movie easily could have fallen prey to self-pretentious humor, but the three main leads have such fantastic chemistry and the dialog is so deliciously witty that your sides will split with laughter at the end of the breezy 86 minute run time.
Life is hard for people in general, but it’s even harder for vampires to make a living in a world nearly over run with living breathing human beings. You can’t have the curtains open during the daytime without dying, your love life is nonexistent, your flat mates won’t do the bloody dishes (literally) and people just misunderstand your crazing for human blood. Viago (Taika Waititi), Vladislov (Jermain Clement), Deacon (Johnny Brugh) and Petyr (Ben Fransham) are sick and tired of it, so they hire a documentary crew (kindly supplying them with protective crosses and promises of not being bitten) to follow them around for a few days and film their life. We open with Viago (who’s kind of a dandy), waking his three other flat mates for a flat meeting to discuss chores. There we see the hundreds of year old vampires still have room mate issues as much as the next guy. Deacon is the crazy one of the group and refuses to pull his weight, while the overly pretentious Vladislov wants to eat a few too many people. Petyr is 8000+ years old and prefers to stay in the basement looking like he came out of the movie “Nosferatu”.
Things change when their familiar brings them a midnight “snack” in the form of a couple of young people and Petyr end up turning one of them. The addition of Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer) adds more drama to their life as he has a hard time adapting to vampire. He’s kind of the oddball and ticks off the other three vampires (minus Petyr who doesn’t have much of an opinion on anything), even going so far as to bring his normal human friend Stu over. Ironically Stu is a big hit with Vlad, Dacon and Viago, leaving Nick even further out in the cold, isolating him from the rest of the group until he goes a bit too far by accidentally inviting over a vampire hunter by mistake.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=50121[/img]By now you’re wondering if the movie is completely bat crazy, and you’re not totally wrong. The film lives off of tongue in cheek humor and plenty of witty gags, but the 4 guys pull it off beautifully. I honestly wondered what I had gotten myself into after the first 15 minutes, but by the ½ an hour point I was giggling and by the last “act” of the film I was dying of laughter. There are plenty of well-worn gags throughout the movie, but the individual comedy styles of the three main vamps are what holds the movie together. Their own form of improve and humor plays well off of the others and creates characters you love and actually want to watch. Vladislov is modeled off of Vlad the Impaler (but here he is the cheap knockoff Vlad the Poker), Deacon is a bad boy who wants to be “bad”, but ends up being just a moron, and Viago is a hysterically fopish dandy that is a bit too awkward for his own good.
Humorous bits fly fast and furious, with nary the same gag played twice, except for an awesome running gag about Vladislov and his arch nemesis “the beast” (which turns out to be an incredible twist near the end) and a few giggles about Stu. This keeps the laughs fresh and the documentary style of filming actually work. Even though the film is mainly a funny film, there are little bits of gore and squirting arteries to make you just a tad squeamish every once in a while. Of course those shocking little moments get turned into a lark, but still, I was surprised by the goriness of the first kill when it popped up.
Jermain, Taika and Johnny really out did themselves this time, as they pretty much do it all in the film. They wrote it, directed it and partially produced it, making it a loves labor for them. Their dry wit and sharp, wry humor are wonderfully refreshing in an era where slapstick and potty humor dominate the comedy landscape. The one dimensional characters and cheap gags would normally fall flat had it not been for their artistic integration of those gags into something greater than themselves. Long story short. This is something not to be missed.
Rated R for bloody violent content, some sexual material and language
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=50129[/img]“What We Do in the Shadows” is shot in that sort of “faux” documentary style, with some interesting use of light and contrast to give it a sort of raw look. Despite meant to look like a documentary crew is filming in the darkness and shadows, the 1.78:1 AVC encoded Blu-ray manages to look really nice. Shot on video amidst the darkness (amusingly enough the shooting style of the film is just as much a part of the joke as the verbal banter is), there is a bit of noise and a few mild artifacts, but the overall image is quite pleasing to the eye. Being that it is shot during the night for 90% of the run time, we see a lot of drab and desaturated images, but once the vamps go out to the nightclub, or the masquerade ball at the end the colors pop incredibly well. Also, being that the subjects ARE vampires, expect to see lots of crimson reds in their rundown home. Black levels are usually very good, but do show some excessive digital noise at times, and show off some very nice shadow detail.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=50137[/img]The 5.1 mix is a rather subtle mix, but a very effective one nonetheless. Most of the gags are the typical horror/vampire gags, with dead silence punctuated by a scream here or there, along with the creaking staircase or the groaning door. Dialog between the 4 main characters is crystal clear, for the most part, with the occasional bit of vocals getting lost as a character shifts away from the camera and mic (a lot of the dialog was shot on set instead of using ADR). Given the vocal prevalence here I wasn’t expecting a whole lot with the surrounds, but there really is a lot of activity in those rears channels. Groans, creaks and screams galore come through with some very creepy ambiance added to the film. LFE is mild, but still very effective when used, adding some weight to the crashes and bumps in the night.
• Audio Commentary
• Behind the Shadows
• Deleted Scenes
• Video Extras
• Promo Videos
• Poster Gallery
Horror/comedies are usually a bit hit or miss, with the majority of them being either too gory than funny, or too funny and slapstick without any macabre in the picture. “What We Do in the Shadows” runs that fine line between creepy and funny and blends in the documentary style to boot, resulting in a stinking funny movie. With the plotline about 3 vampires living in a New Zealand flat, I fully expected this to be a complete bomb, as the propensity for boredom was high. However, the chemistry between the leads and the witty dialog had me in stitches the whole time and begging for more. The disc itself is quite nice, and even has some substantial extras, making the package even sweeter. Highly recommended for fans of horror comedies with a twist.
Starring: Jermaine Clement, Taika Waititi, Ben Fransham, Jonny Brugh
Directed by: Jermaine Clement, Taika Waititi
Written by: Jermaine Clement, Taika Waititi
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 86 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: July 21st 2015
Buy What We Do in the Shadows On Blu-ray at Amazon
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