Watched a pretty great movie this evening: What We Do in the Shadows.
This is a 2014 movie written by and starring Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) and Taika Waititi. It’s a mockumentary film that focuses on the lives of a household of vampires that live in Wellington, New Zealand, and chronicles both the mundanity of their daily lives and some of the more outlandish events that transpire over the course of several months.
It’s a brilliantly written, beautifully acted film, delightful in its understatedness and use of awkward humour. The mockumentary style is used effectively in a similar style to The Office — there’s no commentary on the action, it’s pure “fly on the wall” observation, and in presenting itself in this manner it seems oddly plausible even with the obviously supernatural nonsense going on throughout.
The movie captures the struggle between vampires’ baser urges and their desire to retain at least some of their humanity. The central characters are all rather likeable chaps despite obviously being killers, and it’s all set up so that we sympathise with them. You get the real impression that they feed only out of necessity, and certainly aren’t averse to befriending humans, as exemplified by the presence of “Stu”, a singularly unremarkable man who works in IT that the gang all latch onto and make a pact never to feed on.
It’s not an angsty vampire movie by any means, however. There are a couple of tragic scenes that are played down to such a degree that they’re almost shrugged off, and this is both amusing and representative of the rather casual attitude towards existence that those blessed or cursed with eternal life tend to hold. The movie also subverts the audience’s expectations in a number of places, particularly with regard to one of the central cast members supposed nemesis, known only as “The Beast”.
It’s a lot of fun, in short. It’s a movie where not a lot happens — much like mockumentary TV series such as The Office didn’t really have a lot going on either — but this means it can focus almost entirely on the characterisation of the central cast. In doing so, we’re led to sympathise and empathise with them despite their obviously dark tendencies, and shown that a touch of humanity can show up in the strangest of places.
Most of all, though, it’s a movie that’s just plain funny, whether it’s the ridiculous visual gags involving the vampires’ ability to fly, the overblown gore when one of them accidentally nicks a major artery while feeding and makes “a real mess in there”, or the hilarious rivalry between the vampires and the werewolves, with both groups acting like silly teenagers rather than immortal beings of pure darkness.
Highly recommended, in other words; if you get the chance to sit down and watch it, it’s well worth a couple of hours of your time, even if you’re not typically into horror or vampire movies. It’s just some wonderfully gentle — and, at times, deliberately awkward — humour with plenty of heart, and a real feeling that everyone involved just wanted the audience to have as much fun as they did. And, for me anyway, something being produced with that kind of attitude is well worth praising and enjoying in this age of increasingly commercialised productions.