What We Do in the Shadows

What We Do in the Shadows ★★★½

You Have 90 Minutes To Comply: The New Year Project

For the most part, What We Do In The Shadows understands the mockumentary and what it needs to do to get it just about right, but it has one really major flaw.

Taika Waititi, as Viago, is the problem. If these kinds of films are going to work, for me at least, they have to play it pretty much straight down the middle and act totally like it is a documentary. I've watched three Christopher Guest films as part of this season, and one of the strongest elements of all of them is the fact that they play it completely deadpan. You then can play around so much with usurping the expected and already seen.

But Waititi here plays it far too much for laughs and his performance is altogether too winky and nudge-nudgey and it clashes pretty uncomfortably with everyone else here who seem to get it right on the nose. I'm not sure why he plays it like this or if the character is just not right for this film, but when he's around and at the centre of the action, it just didn't work nearly as well.

The rest of the time, however, What We Do In The Shadows is splendid fun. It doesn't all work (the spaghetti gag isn't funny at all) and even at just 85 minutes it does feel like the concept is being slightly stretched yet it's still very good and filled with amusing moments that play around with traditional vampire ideas and even throws in one or two relatively logical ones of its own - such as when Cori Gonzalez-Macuer makes the mistake of having a chip.

It's inventive not so much in the form but more in the way it plays with the vampire concept. The 'bat fight' is a terrific idea that's amusingly done and the gimmick used to get the documentary crew involved is quite smart as well. plus it's a film that's littered with little funny moments and cleverness rather than anything hysterically funny. However, the best moments for me involved the encounters with the werewolf gang.

I certainly hope that Waititi and co-director and co-star Jemaine Clement are at least contemplating a spin-off / sequel with those guys because they were great. The initial run-in with the vampires was funny enough (the swearing thing was daft though) but the second encounter where they're trying to chain themselves to a tree ahead of a full moon appearance and are chastised by Rhys Darby for wearing tight trousers that will rip and using a combination lock is fantastic.

It just has enough inspired moments and a general sense of humour as well as an affection for the horror sub-genres that it is sending up for it recover from its problems and emerge as a really entertaining little film. Its imminent cult status is as well earned as it is an absolute shoo-in.

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