Friday, March 6, 2015

New in Theaters: What We Do in the Shadows

It's been 31 years since the release of This is Spinal Tap, and somehow, in an era where every good idea is endlessly recycled ad nauseam, the Mockumentary genre still feels relatively under-explored. What We Do in the Shadows, by the same Kiwi comedians that brought us Flight of the Conchords and 2010's underrated Boy (which should be required viewing for all Michael Jackson enthusiasts), helps point out how much fresh air is still left in the realm. 

Setting up a Real World-style look at the lives of four New Zealand vampires who live together in a situation that couldn't even loosely be described as functional--no one's done the dishes in five years, and they're all caked in blood--this film effectively does for vampire movies what Spinal Tap first accomplished for Judas Priest and Iron Maiden three decades ago--it takes the piss straight out of them. 

The plot, if you feel inclined to call it that, is that the main characters are getting ready to attend a semi-annual Wellington Ball, called the Unholy Masquerade, in which all of the undead monsters of New Zealand--vampires, zombies, werewolves, etc.--gather to party. But really, that plot conceit just exists as an excuse for 85 minutes of funny vampire jokes and set pieces. 

And the comedy, while dry, is generally very good. Despite sleeping in coffins, the characters still wake up via alarm clocks. They have trouble going to nightclubs because they can't get the bouncers to literally invite them in. When they bring victims back to their house, they put newspaper down to try and control the blood stains that get everywhere. There's a lot more, and I'm intentionally leaving out the best ones. Just wait until you hear how Vladislav (Jemaine Clement, who co-directed with Taika Waititi) explains why he prefers virgin blood. 

Because we're in an era where vampire stories seem to be overrunning pop culture, this film feels as timely as some of the classic Mel Brooks spoofs, like Spaceballs and Robin Hood: Men in Tights. But what's great here is that the movie isn't merely mocking other popular films and TV shows, but also an entire horror archetype, which means that, unlike Spaceballs or Spinal Tap, What We Do in the Shadows should have a much longer lifespan, and should play well to audiences for as long as vampire stories remain a thing. Because that will probably be a very long time, this delightful movie is likely to remain just as ageless as its subjects. 

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