So I Just Saw What We Do in the Shadows

The great thing about being on Spring Break is that you don’t have to worry about typical adult concerns like bed times, so when your friends say, “Hey guys, there’s this movie playing at eight on Thursday night; you wanna go see it?” you can feel perfectly free to say, “Yes.”

And that’s exactly what I did.

Rachael and I went with some friends to see this movie called What We Do in the Shadows, which is a mockumentary about a group of vampire roommates living in New Zealand.  It is as crazy as it sounds.

What We Do in the Shadows poster.jpg

The guy on the far right is Stu. Everybody likes Stu. (Image credit: Wikipedia)

I didn’t know anything about the movie going in, so I didn’t know what to expect, and upon reaching the theater and seeing all the advertising for the movie decked out with quotes from reviewers exclaiming “Hilarious!” I felt some trepidation.  On the one hand, saying that a movie is hilarious indicates that you will laugh a lot, which is a good thing.  On the other hand, if all you can say is that you laughed while watching the movie, does that mean that you laughed because it was really good or because it was spectacularly bad?  These are the questions that haunt me when I’m sitting in the lobby of a movie theater.

To elaborate on the basic premise a little further, the setup is that a documentary crew has gotten permission from a group of vampire to film them in the months leading up to the very secretive and exclusive undead event in Wellington, New Zealand, the Unholy Masquerade.  The group that’s being filmed consists of four vampires (Deacon, Viago, Vladislav, and Petyr).  Deacon is the youngest at just under two hundred years old, which makes him the rebellious one, and Petyr is the eldest Orlockian recluse who’s been alive for eight thousand years.  Vlad hails from the middle ages and has some feelings of insecurity since he lost a fight with his nemesis The Beast, and Viago is a four hundred year old fop who acts as host to the film crew.  All four guys are absurdly out of touch with contemporary society.

The majority of the comedy in the movie derives from the various horrific aspects of vampire mythology being applied to a group of derpy roommates.  They are all socially inept, and only scrape by as vampires thanks to the various supernatural powers that they enjoy (it should be noted that every power vampires possess in lore is in play here: hypnotic stares, shapeshifting, flight, superior speed and strength; despite all these advantages, our protagonists still only manage to eek out a rather pathetic existence).  It’s playing on the idea that morons gifted with incredible talents will still be morons.

Beyond that, the movie does a good job of making these characters likeable, even as they entrap humans that they’re planning on bleeding dry (and always in the messiest, most inept way possible).  Petyr strikes me as particularly sympathetic, even though he gets very little screentime (seeing as he’s a recluse who lives in the basement).  We get two instances where Petyr feeds on humans, one told by Deacon and one implied to happen off camera, and in both cases it’s not the typical feeding that the other guys engage in.  Petyr feeds on people and them turns them into vampires (he also apparently enjoys chickens); I’ve decided that this is all subtext suggesting that Petyr actually is just a very lonely person who doesn’t know how to interact with people anymore, so he tries to make friends the only way he knows how: by turning them into the undead legions of the night.  It’s precisely as horrible as you think it might be, but the movie carries everything off with such a casual “yeah, the way we live is kind of kooky” vibe that you overlook the fact that you’re laughing at nightmarish bloodsucking monsters.

I don’t know what the release schedule for What We Do in the Shadows is like (it was produced in 2014 and hasn’t gotten a wide theatrical release stateside), but if you get an opportunity to see it, then I’d definitely recommend it.

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