Friday, March 13, 2015

Shadows Brightened My Day: The Best Comedy of 2015 so far

Movie Review: What We Do in the Shadows

Director: Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi

Reviewed: 13 March 2015

jamesintexas rating--***1/2

This movie is so damn funny.  I had no expectations and next to no knowledge about What We Do in the Shadows when I walked into the theater, and the experience of this faux-documentary of a gang of four ridiculous New Zealand vampires all sharing a house is just winning on nearly every level. Despite its low-budget and limited resources, directors, writers, and stars Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi manage to poke holes in the bigger budget vampire films, skewer pop culture, inundate the film with bizarre paintings and drawings, as well as have some genuinely cool special effects played for laughs more than gasps. It is a small film with many wonderful moments of hilarity.

The film rambles and meanders its way through the house with interviews with the marvelously deluded and vain Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), the skittery and polite Viago (Waititi), the vainglorious and perverted Vladislav (Clement), and a genuine spooky Nosferatu-like Petyr (Ben Fransham). The film bounces from character to character, highlighting the vampire who won't do the dishes, the benefits of levitation when trying to vacuum or dust those hard to reach spots, and the needs for familiars and constant victims. But then it chronicles the disadvantages, like being unable to enter a club unless you are invited in or near violent run-ins with werewolves (Rhys Darby is a delight in his scenes here).

The film's low-key, low-rent nature is part of its charm, and though every sequence does not fully work, the film overall is wonderful. I grew a bit tired of the handheld camera running through the house (flashing back to some of the nausea or dizziness from viewing The Blair Witch Project), but in general, the interviews and vampires walking about town is shot simply. There's a character named Stu who is indescribably wonderful and essential in the most unconventional way, and I just think the film made me want to see more of this world, to spend more time with these characters.

Roger Ebert said, "No good movie is too long, and no bad movie is short enough."  This is a good, funny movie, and I wanted more. A good sign, I think.  Highly recommended.

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