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Gleaming Teeth

What We Do in the Shadows – A Film Review

what we do in the shadows

REVIEWED BY CRITIC, FILM BUFF & BEER CONNOISSEUR F.P. BLUCK

PLACE: Dendy Cinema 3

PIC: What We Do in the Shadows

PEEPS: About 50 present

I hate the #$%^ing meerkat ad. We got it, along with the usual bunch of short bites (sushi, menswear, framing, gifts, pancakes, booze) and the serious looking one for bar and restaurant that is curiously unlikely to inspire attendance*. Previews for Dracula Untold (lots of CGI and a script that sounds like it came from a random word generator), The Interview (James Franco and Seth Rogen set out to kill Kim Jong-Un who seems to get ridiculed a bit as well**) and Sin City (darkly luscious noir and a big cast that will need a pretty good story to justify it). So, the lesson is that the feature would involve humour, vampires and darkness***.

What We Do in the Shadows is set in the present day in NZ’s pretty capital city, Wellington, although it could be pretty well anywhere with a population in four of more digits. Inside an old house live four vampires with vaguely central European accents – seriously old Petyr (Ben Fransham), old and formerly powerful Vladislav (Jermain Clement), needy and annoying Viago (Taika Waititi) and youthful and lazy Deacon (Jonathan Brugh). They constitute a normal group house, with the usual tensions over housework and visitors that are explained by Viago to a visiting documentary film crew. Sometimes they go out, though they need to be invited into clubs**** and their need to snaffle promising people and drain them dry is a bit of a social handicap; sometimes they have standoffs with Wellington’s burgeoning werewolf community. Sometimes they, or their thirty-something female familiar, persuade people to come to the house where they will be attacked and drained after being subjected to the lads’ limited hospitality. The high point for the supernatural community is the masquerade ball, to be held in fairly ordinary premises. It cannot be an exciting life, but it’s eternal.

It’s not wholly satisfying, though the sketch comedy works well. Think of The Young Ones with very long teeth. Individual tropes work well, though scene endings can be a little ragged and there is not a consistent theme to follow. The script is amusing for the most part, with reactions to the social blunders of a newbie vampire being a high point. A feature film may not have been the right format; alternatively a film may have been better had it contained more unifying material or spent some time exploring the comedy inherent in much documentary-making.

The audience laughed like drains and a 95% Rotten Tomatoes rating (on a small sample) suggests there is a market which will lap it up like blood from an artery.

Three flat whites. Black pudding.

* – I have been to the premises in question, during the daytime when it attracts older people, and thought the place pretty good.
** – I’m guessing they’re not shooting for the Pyongyang Film Festival.
*** – the last two of which go together anyway.
**** – it’s a vampire thing. They can’t just walk in to someone else’s place.

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