Yeah, this movie is R. It's adorable of me that I double checked its IMDB page to confirm that it was R. But totally, this movie is R. But, like, it's an R that I want you to watch. Like, if you are a kid reading this page and your parents aren't into letting you watch R rated movies because they're responsible, don't break the rules. But wait until you are 17 and then say, "I want to experience a good R rated movie." Like, it's got tons of blood, but hilarious blood. It's also got some language, but the language is a hilarious contrast to their outfits, you know?
DIRECTORS: Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi
Guys, I am so close to being caught up. While my plans for this evening involve watching a movie, there's a chance that I could actually catch up in the near future. I know. It's a pipe dream. But there's a chance that I could actually empty my notes folder when it comes to writing film reviews. I am so grateful to one of my students for getting my sense of humor. Now that I think about it, it has been a criminally long time since I've seen a comedy that has made me howl with laughter. Many comedies recently, I feel myself being generous to and allowing myself to be vulnerable. Forget it with this one. What We Do in the Shadows might be the funniest movie I've seen in years and I want to watch it again today.
People were preaching this movie. I don't know why I didn't jump on board. Again, this harkens back to my fear of overestimating movies. When every nerd preaches something, I tend to take a while to get on the bandwagon. If I'm not watching it in the first week, there's a good chance that I'm not going to see it until way later. But it was Halloween and I feel like my wife put up with a lot of garbage having to watch The Woman in Black last year. (Honest to Pete, guys. The movie wrecked her. She low-key hated me for a while after that one.) I thought a Halloween themed comedy might be the way to go. A funny scary movie might be one of my favorite subgenres ever. I'm thinking of my favorite horror movies and I think the top two might be Shaun of the Dead and An American Werewolf in London. But the inverse is also true. I might hate a bad horror comedy more than I would hate a bad horror movie or a bad comedy. There has to be something special about the film and I have to say that Clement and Waititi may have found that perfect formula. As part of this whole rant about my psyche, I have to also point out that I might be just burned out on the whole mockumentary bit. I love the idea behind Christopher Guest, but A Mighty Wind was the last great mockumentary out there, and even that wasn't as solid as Waiting for Guffman. I remember watching Mascots while hearing a death knell for the format. But What We Do in the Shadows may have breathed new life into the genre. Honestly, this movie gets what make mockumentaries great and saturated it with great characters. The vampires in the house could all be a repeated joke. We have the vampire archetype in our heads. Frankly, the least used joke in this one is Bela Lugosi's Dracula. Rather, the directors have looked at the complete canon of vampire lore and created these characters that aren't simply parodies of the mythical beasts, but rather an exploration of what we have experienced of vampires as a collective. (Also, extra points for pulling in the Max Schrek vampire. While he has no lines, he is hilarious. I think BECAUSE he has no lines, he is hilarious. He's just a funny bit, guys. I'm overexplaining it at this point.)
I'm trying to recommend this to everyone, but I also can foresee people really being down on this movie. The movie definitely has a Flight of the Conchords feel to the storytelling, not surprising that half of the writing / directing team is Jemaine Clements. He also plays possibly my favorite of the three vampires, so he is definitely steering the story to his comfort zone. Add to the fact that Rhys Darby is given one of the best smaller roles in the movie, it definitely is a treat for fans of the show. But to call the film a carbon copy of the HBO program would be a disservice. The thing that really worked on the show was the almost complete lack of stories and punchlines. The HBO program worked because of the absurdity of the characters coupled with hilarious songs. What We Do in the Shadows has far more intensity and pacing than a traditional Flight of the Conchords episode. I can't help but comparing it to the Guest movies again. Similar to his films, the narrative surrounds an upcoming event. (Guffman, opening night / Best in Show, dog show / A Mighty Wind, folk reunion / For Your Consideration, Oscar announcement / Mascots, televised competition.) I don't know why this is the only way for a mockumentary to work, but I suppose it is a mundane enough event to ground what are clearly absurd characters. With the Guest films, these people are meant to be John and Jane Q. Public with bizarre personality traits. With Shadows, it has to take the story a step further and turn larger than life characters and turn their mythos into the realm of the mundane. The Unholy Banquet starts off as this larger than life element and the directors do the wise thing and make it seem ridiculous.
The dichotomy between a clear love for vampire mythos and a need to simplify it is awesome. The characters in the story are hilariously over the top and grandiose and simple at the same time. The juxtaposition between the old world and the simplicity of contemporary culture tells the story well. I'm not saying that Shadows is the first film to use this trope, but it might be the one that goes the deepest. The opening credits are recreations of ancient lore, yet this is a tale of a character discovering what a video call is. That sounds dumb, but it works marvelously well, and that can be attributed to a perfect cast. The casting of this movie is dead on. I don't think that there is a weak spot in this film. The closest thing I can think of as a weakness is Nick, who A) is supposed to be somewhat unlikable and B) has less of a backstory than the other characters considering that he is the new vampire. He is the juxtaposed and that's why the movie works. He has to be in the movie for it to work because what little linear narrative there is in the movie is based on how these ancient vampires react to a brat of a vampire. There's no one they could have gotten to play the part better because the part is played flawlessly.
I kind of want to watch this movie again. I want to sell it to all of my friends without the risk of them judging me. (You know, that vulnerability that comes with saying that something and genius and the very real possibility of people not laughing.) The movie really is that fun. I hearkens back to Christopher Guest's hayday, but takes thing almost a step further. Seriously, fam. Why aren't you watching this right now?
Like, it's on Amazon Prime...
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.