Sunday, March 22, 2015

In short: What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

It looks like I need to rethink this blog’s stated stance regarding the intrinsic crappiness of horror comedies. At least, the last few years have found me encountering too many horror comedies that are actually worthwhile and can’t in all honesty continue to prophylactically dismiss the whole sub-genre until a given film can conquer my prejudices.

Case in point is Jemaine Clement’s and Taika Waititi’s (both also acting, writing and producing) fake documentary about a group of vampire flat-sharers in Wellington New Zealand, which is as good as anything you’ll get to see, comedy or not. It is – see also that whole “comedy” thing – a very funny movie that just happens to also have a lot of thoughtful things to say about life at large, the need to accept change, the nature of outsider-dom and probably half a dozen other things. All of it is realized without any preachiness, without the film ever feeling the need to look at the audience to explain that it isn’t a mere horror comedy but actually a film out to say IMPORTANT THINGS, most probably because its makers seem not to see any difference between these two things; having seen What We Do, I don’t see one either.

While the film’s at it, it also does some really clever stuff with standards of vampire mythology, finding its humour in the absurd and the slightly off yet just as often by just taking various versions of vampire lore at face value, working on the logical assumption that a life that goes on long enough will turn into a farce sooner or later. Even though the film does make fun of its characters in various ways, its position is less one of superiority than of a sort of slightly exasperated sympathy, the kind of approach you’ll have towards a friend with a tendency to just fuck things up, or, if you’re lucky with these things, towards your own flaws. Consequently, the film – despite containing a fine amount of pressure pump blood bursts (aka The Japanese Blood Fountain) – carries not a single cynical bone in its body. It’s difficult not to use the term “heart-warming” here for me, given how much the film made me smile at its characters whose not exactly quotidian (yet also clearly very quotidian for them) travails do mirror those we non-blood drinkers go through quite a bit, at least those of us who don’t fit very well into society’s ideas of matureness, sense, or sanity.

By the by, the directors also do a lot with the little money they have available, gathering a wonderful cast (including themselves) using special effects from the ridiculous to the surprisingly great (whichever is more appropriate for any given scene), adding a fun, off-beat soundtrack. It’s just an all-around fantastic achievement for living and undead alike.

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