Sunday, March 15, 2015
What we do in the shadows
Comedy is hard to review. A comedy designed to make the audience laugh out loud either succeeds or fails in that endeavor -- but success can be problematic to define and not replicated with all viewers. And success or failure is, also, a matter of taste and the viewer's inclination and mood -- some movies seem hilarious when watched with audiences loudly laughing at the gags on-screen, but might seem merely contrived and, even, desperate to the same viewer watching the film alone. And, even, a movie that might otherwise be very funny can be spoiled if seen when you are in a sad or sour mood or, in fact, if the audience laughs at the wrong times or too slavishly. I thought What we do in the shadows (an elegantly stupid, quasi- Raymond Carver title) was very funny. I laughed a lot. I saw the film with my daughter who also thought it was funny although she had to close her eyes during some of the more gruesome sequences -- there is lots of arterial blood squirting around and, when the vampires maul their victims, we see close-ups of anatomically accurate throat wounds. Three other people saw the film with us at the Lagoon Theater on March 14, 2015 -- as far as I could ascertain, these other spectators also laughed a lot during the film. The premise of What we do in the Shadows is that a film-crew is making a documentary about a small coven of vampires living as flat-mates on the outskirts of Wellington, New Zealand. The vampires are hapless losers who spend their nights quarreling about who should do the dishes, heaps of ancient crockery covered with gore, or bullying a group of equally hapless werewolves. (The werewolves are nice boys who admit that they are condemned to spend moonlit nights sniffing at each other's genitals; their leader, the self-proclaimed alpha male, demands that they not use foul language -- it's an example of New Zealand "nice": "we're werewolves, lads, not 'swear-wolves'," he says.) The younger vampire roommates fancy themselves as lady killers -- and, in fact, they kill a couple of girls -- but they are generally regarded as nerds by the mortals around them: they can't get into the more hip night-clubs in Wellington because of their antique clothing. (The familiar and slave of one of the vampires -- we see her mowing the lawn of their gothic haunted house -- remarks that they "wear blouses for Christ' sake," She should know because it's her task to take their bloody garments to the laundry and clean up the blood sprayed all over their dining room and toilet.) The film is witty and the characters are appealing in their own warped way and the movie is short, succinct, and funny from beginning to end. At one point, one of the undead, a fresh kill who goes around boasting to everyone that he is a vampire, inadvertently lures a vampire-hunter to the boys' manse. A fight ensues and Petyr, the senior vampire (he is 8000 years old and looks like Nosferatu) is killed, burned to ashes by the sunlight. One of the vampires is disgusted that the documentary crew has filmed Petyr's fiery demise. He approaches the camera in a snit and shoves his paw at the lens crying; "Get that thing out of here. Can't you see we're grieving this sunlight-related tragedy!" This 2015 film is directed by Germaine Clement, who also plays one of the vampires, the star and co-director of the wonderful HBO series Flight of the Conchords. The movie is not to all tastes, but I enjoyed the film and thought it was consistently funny and ingenious.