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What We Do in the Shadows

by Kilian Melloy
Tuesday Jul 21, 2015
What We Do in the Shadows

I'll have to admit up front that I never saw what was so funny about "Flight of the Conchords," the New Zealand import aired by HBO that centered around a two-man band and starred Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie. "Eagle Vs. Shark," the 2007 Taika Waititi-directed film that starred Waititi and Clement, was more up my alley; so is What We Do in the Shadows," last year's comic romp that Waititi and Clement co-wrote and co-directed.

"What We Do in the Shadows" is presented as a documentary on a house full of vampires living in Wellington, New Zealand, but it takes its cues from reality TV. Clement plays sexy vampire Vladislav, opposite Waititi's prim Viago, the one who runs the house and calls occasional meetings to discuss neglected household chores. Jonathan Brugh plays Deacon -- the youthful "bad boy" of the group, at a youthful 183 years -- and Ben Franshom, in full-on "Nosferatu" makeup, plays the 8,000 year old Petyr, a crabby and somewhat forgetful vampire who lives in a crypt in the basement. Peter is elderly even by the standards of the undead.

The documentary purports to record events leading up the annual "Unholy Masquerade," a ball attended mostly by vampires but open to other categories of the undead, as well (a zombie or two make the guest list). Vladislav clings to the hope that he will be named this year's Guest of Honor; meantime, the household deals with the unexpected complication of Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macer), a newly-minted vampire who was originally offered up as dinner by Deacon's "familiar," Jackie (Jackie van Beek). (A "familiar" is an ordinary human being willing to submit to years of unpaid servitude to a vampire master in exchange for eternal life as a vampire him- or herself.)

Deacon is no longer the problem child; Nick, for whom the transition has been rough, starts acting out. Like a jealous older sibling, Deacon harasses Nick, and the two get into squabbles that resemble childish brawls, but are much more entertaining thanks to the fact that they can fly, hurl each other across considerable distances, and transform into bats.

There's an upside, though, in that Nick introduces his amiable human friend Stu (Stuart Rutherford) to the group. Stu quickly becomes everyone's favorite. It doesn't hurt that he's into IT and can explain puzzling modern concepts like Google and Facebook.

The film's dry humor, comically precise pacing, and shrewdly deployed visual effects all combine to make "What We Do in the Shadows" a cult favorite with mass appeal. The Blu-ray release features plenty of extras, including a commentary track by Waititi and Clement; "Behind the Shadows," a feature that delves into the practical effects and make-up used in the film; a dozen deleted scenes (of which "Nipple Eyes" is the funniest); interviews; and "Video Extras," which consist of the original short sketch for the idea.


"What We Do in the Shadows"
Blu-ray
$39.99
http://www.paramount.com/movies/home-media

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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