It’s been a while since I’ve recommended a movie, and what better day to put that right than today. I don’t know what it’s like elsewhere but, here in the UK, Halloween is increasingly over-commercialised and family friendly. It’s about sweets and toys and parties now, with the true horror of the season and its dark origins long-forgotten.
Today I present for you a no-holds-barred, warts-and-all documentary about that most revered and reviled of monsters, the vampire. WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS is a chilling and revealing peek into the dark, depraved and sordid lives of the undead. Actually it’s not. WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS is, in fact, that rare movie beast: a horror comedy that works. It’s bloody hilarious, actually, and I don’t hesitate to recommend it for your Halloween evening viewing pleasure.
Follow the lives of Viago (Taika Waititi), Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), and Vladislav (Jemaine Clement) – three flatmates who are just trying to get by and overcome life’s obstacles – like being immortal vampires who must feast on human blood. Hundreds of years old, the vampires are finding that beyond sunlight catastrophes, hitting the main artery, and not being able to get a sense of their wardrobe without a reflection – modern society has them struggling with the mundane like paying rent, keeping up with the chore wheel, trying to get into nightclubs, and overcoming flatmate conflicts.
Coming from the creators of FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS and BOY, you know WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS should be good, but it’s just how good it is that really took me by surprise. This is a superbly paced, brilliantly performed, non-stop funny movie which I genuinely adored. The mockumentary is a difficult movie form to get right, but the film-makers involved here have experience and it shows. Chief Conchord Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi co-write and co-direct as well as playing two of the main bickering flatmates/ immortals, and they strike just the right balance between subtlety and out-and-out stupidity. The movie takes its ridiculous premise and exploits it to the full (plenty of crucifix and daylight-avoiding jokes) whilst somehow incredibly also managing to show restraint. There are plenty of visual effects on display, for example, but they’re never the sole focus of the scene. This is a film about idiots who happen to be vampires, not vampires who happen to be idiots, if that makes any sense.
Stealing the show for me, though, is Rhys Darby as Anton, leader of a pack of local werewolves with impeccable manners (‘we’re werewolves, not swearwolves’ he tells one of the pack who dares to curse).
Again, WHAT WE DID IN THE SHADOWS took me completely by surprise, but it’s no surprise to hear there’s a sequel on the way (focusing on the werewolves, no less). The film’s available on Netflix here in the UK and I’ll repeat what I said earlier: if you’re looking for a movie to watch this Halloween, I thoroughly recommend it.