What We Do in the Shadows
- Street Date:
- July 21st, 2015
- Reviewed by:
- Matthew Hartman
- Review Date: 1
- July 14th, 2015
- Movie Release Year:
- 85 Minutes
- MPAA Rating:
- Release Country
- United States
The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
"Leave me to do my dark bidding on the internet!"
Horror comedies like 'Return of the Living Dead', 'Evil Dead II,' and 'Shaun of the Dead,' are among my favorite kinds of movies. I love how they show reverence to their source materials while also providing a sharp satirical edge. Even flicks like 'Jason Lives: Friday The 13th Part VI' offer a nice little commentary on the status of 80s slasher movies while also offering up some effective scares. Then you have mockumentaries - fake documentaries that use a reality-based format to lampoon a particular topic. As a fan of Christopher Guest comedies like 'Best In Show' and 'Waiting for Guffman' I love seeing how a cast of comedic actors can play things straight and honest and still end up producing some of the funniest material. With 'What We Do In The Shadows' you get the best of both worlds, a horror comedy mockumentary that is sharp, witty, and gut-bustingly funny.
Having flatmates is never exactly the easiest of situations. They could be your best friends and still your flatmates could still find ways to annoy you. When you've been living with the same guys for several decades, there is some understandable tension. When you're a group of four Vampires sharing a flat in Wellington New Zealand life is very rarely dull. Viago (Taika Waititi) is 179 years old and is a bit of an18th century dandy who is a bit of a neat freak and hates getting blood all over his victorian furniture. Deacon (Jonny Brugh) is 183 years old and is a bit of a pervert who worked with the Nazis during World War II and is completely oblivious to the cultural significance of that fact. Then there is Vladislav "The Poker" (Jemaine Clement) who is 862 years old and was once a powerful despot of a vampire who has had a crisis of confidence after a catastrophic battle with his arch nemesis "The Beast." Living deep in the basement of the flat is Petyr (Ben Fransham) who has been a vampire for over 8,000 years and is content with leaving bits of flesh and spinal columns on the floor - because really when you're that age you're set in your ways.
Being a vampire poses a number of difficult situations Viago, Deacon and Vladislav have to deal with on a nightly basis. They're ancient men used to older customs in a world that has long forgotten their ways of life. Because mirrors are out of the question they have a tough time getting dressed at night - making it difficult for them to get into night clubs to find victims. And since they need to feed, they must have a steady source of human blood. To ensure things get done, they rely upon Deacon's familiar Jackie (Jackie Van Beek). Jackie does their laundry, mows the lawn, rakes the leaves, and if necessary hoses down the driveway after a bloody encounter. Jackie also supplies the guys with their victims in the hopes that one day they will turn her into a vampire so she can finally stop aging - even though she has a husband and kids.
Because of Jackie, the guys meet Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer). After Vladislav, Deacon, and Viago fail to hunt Nick down, Petyr catches him and turns the hapless dolt into a vampire. With a new flatmate living with them, the guys are more than a little irritated with Nick and his child-like antics. But then Nick brings over his best friend and human Stu (Stuart Rutherford) and things start to get a little better around the house. Stu hooks the guys up with a new TV set, gets them internet access and supplies them with some digital cameras so they can look their best. Because they've made a vow to not eat Stu - no matter how much they may want to - Stu gets to hang out with them and partake of their nightly shenanigans. Stu's arrival is a blessing because The Unholy Masquerade Ball is on the horizon and the guys are going to have to look their best - especially Vladislav who believes he will be the guest of honor. Together Deacon, Vladislav, Nick, Viago, Peter and even the amiable Stu will have to navigate the Wellington night life, vampire hunters, a pack of werewolves, witches, Zombies and even the return of "The Beast!
Comedies are the best kind of films to watch and at the same time they're the worst sort of films to review. Humor is subjective and one man's AB negative is another man's O positive. That said, 'What We Do In The Shadows' stands as one of the funniest movies I've seen in years. When I see a comedy in the theater, I rarely go twice - I don't like to tire out the jokes and I always fear a movie won't be as funny the second time around. This one holds up beautifully to multiple viewings and because of it's slavish attention to detail it offers much to see and appreciate with every viewing - especially if you're well versed in vampire movies! The references to other movies are quick and subtle so even if you don't get the joke the first time through (or even the second) you'll probably pick up on them later.
The best aspect of this movie is the fact that it is a mockumentary. By playing things straight and honest like what the audience is seeing is an every day occurrence actually works to keep the humor pitch perfect. It's a subtle tone that can be tough to maintain but Jemaine Clement, Taika Waitit, Jonny Brugh and Cori Gonzalez-Macuer provide honest deadpan performances that allow the situations to provide the humor rather than trying to be funny themselves. Had this movie been a straight comedy without the faux-documentary format I don't think the humor would have hit the target nearly as well as it does here. That said - this sort of humor is extremely difficult to describe in detail without spoiling a majority of jokes so forgive me for being vague. This is one of those movies I want as many people to see and enjoy so I don't want to kill the humor before folks have the chance to sit down with this flick in their own homes.
Now I can see how some people may be turned off by this sort of humor, but that still doesn't keep 'What We Do In The Shadows' from being one of the funniest movies I've seen in a good long while. I'm giving it the full five star grade because it is one of those movies that I will not only watch over and over again myself, but it's also a movie I will be showing to anyone and everyone I can put in front of my screen - whether they want to see it or not. My hunch is that even the folks that may not be too keen on this kind of smart comedy - or even horror movies for that matter - will find something to love about the ridiculousness on display here. For a modestly budgeted little independent movie that required crowd funding to even get a U.S. theatrical release, 'What We Do In The Shadows' gets a lot of milage out of a simple premise and the laughter rarely lets up - and when it pauses for even a moment, it's just a setup for an even bigger joke. I hope I haven't oversold this movie to those who haven't seen it yet, but at the same time it is incredibly difficult for me to stop talking about how hilarious this movie is. Take a look for yourself - my hope is you'll find out you love it and will need to see it again and again.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
After a delayed release date, 'What We Do In The Shadows' finally arrives on Blu-ray in the United States from The Orchard and Paramount Pictures. Pressed on a BD50 disc, the disc is housed in a standard Blu-ray case. The disc opens directly to a static main menu.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
Shot as a low budget documentary, 'What We Do In The Shadows' was able to come up with a nice richly detailed 1.78:1 1080p image that is unique unto itself. Most of the film features rather muted colors as it largely takes place in the dark and ominous world of the flat the vampires share. They don't have much in the way of modern lighting and appliances so the look of the film works as its own joke. That said, when the guys go out into the world things brighten up - especially when they finally get into a night club and the full range of colors are allowed to pop. Given this is a movie about vampires, red gets a lot of play - especially crimson blood tones. Flesh tones are also seemingly accurate, even for a movie about pale, bloodless vampires. Detail even in darker scenes is intricate and immaculate letting the viewer appreciate all of the work that went into the costuming and makeup effects. The film takes place at night 99% of the time, so for a very dark film black levels are nicely inky and provide solid shadows while keeping any crush issues to a minimum. All around a great transfer that lends itself to the film's sense of humor. There is a tad bit of video noise every now and again, but it's very infrequent making me think it's a side effect of a particular camera that was being used during the shooting of a handful of scenes, the rest of the image is problem free.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
'What We Do In The Shadows' enjoys a nice subtle DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio mix. Most of the jokes are contingent on typical horror movie setups - creaking stairs, dead silence, and of course screams from helpless victims. For such a subtle mix, the surround channels get a lot of work. Ambients have a wonderful presence to the mix making it feel alive and atmospheric - especially when the guys are out walking around town. Being a faux documentary, dialogue gets a lot of play here and it comes through just fine. All of the elements, dialogue, sound effects, and music get enough separation to have their place and never overpower the mix. Like I said before, it's a subtle surround mix, but there is a lot to enjoy here and it works well with the film's comedic tones and horror movie origins.
The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff
Audio Commentary: Writers, Directors, and Stars Jermaine Clement and Taika Waititi talk about the making of the film, the genesis of the idea and shooting in Wellington. It's actually a very bland track - a group cast commentary might have been a bit more fun - but this track is still very informative and helps you appreciate that making a comedy isn't always fun and games.
Deleted Scenes: (HD 31:33) At around twenty five minutes of deleted scenes, it's easy to see why some of these were cut since they didn't really fit the narrative structure or move the story forward, but that doesn't keep them from being incredibly entertaining. I don't think an extended cut would be needed but it might have been fun to see these scenes included through seamless branching.
Behind The Shadows: (HD 17:36) This is a nice behind the scenes look featuring set cameras as some scenes are filmed. The process of creating a fake documentary looks rather tiring!
Video Extras: (HD 50:06) This is a collection of scenes that act almost like additional deleted scenes that run for about 24 minutes - again more funny material that just makes the movie all the more entertaining. The most interesting "clip" is the original short film that runs for 27:25 - it's pretty rough and doesn't quite hit the humor marks, but it's a solid proof of concept that Jermaine Clement and Taika Waitit had something great on their hands and needed a little more time to bring it to life.
Promo Videos: (HD 6:39) this is a collection of short minute and two minute clips that introduces the characters, their hobbies, werewolves, going out on the town - more great material that could have made it into the main feature.
Interviews: (HD 18:35) This is a collection of in character interviews that feel very "promotional" but at the same time easily could have been a part of the main feature.
Poster Gallery: (HD) This features dozens of different versions of the poster work, some are better than others while a number of them would have served as fantastic alternate cover artwork for this set.
'What We Do In The Shadows' is a charming, funny, and scary little gem of a horror comedy mockumentary. When you think about the story of a group of vampires living together - the chances for this movie to be a bland bore are numerous. Even worse, in an attempt to be a horror comedy it could have wound up being a sad parody. Thankfully Jermaine Clement and Taika Waititi and their talented cast sidestepped all of those cinematic land mines and managed to deliver one of the funniest movies I've sen in the last couple years. After two viewings in the theater, I'm already onto my second Blu-ray helping as I write this review. I guess you can call me a fan. With a rock solid picture, a strong audio track and a whole host of great extras, I'm calling this Blu-ray from Paramount as being highly recommended. Fans should be more than happy with this disc!
- 1080p MPEG-4 AVC
- English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
- English, English SDH
- Commentary by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi
- Deleted Scenes
- Behind The Shadows
- Video Extras
- Promo Videos
- Poster Gallery
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