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By Daniel Lammin
29th March 2015

The mockumentary form has really exploded over the past decade or so, probably due to the success of such things as ‘The Office’ and the films of Sasha Baron Cohen. Most of the time they’re pretty forgettable, but every so often, something special comes along. New Zealand has really made a mark for itself for its uniquely charming style of comedy, and Jermaine Clement and Taika Waititi have combined the two to create one of the most hilarious comic gems in years, ‘What We Do In The Shadows’.

A documentary film crew is given permission to capture the lives of a group of vampires living in a share house in Wellington. There’s overly-pleasant Viago (Waititi), sadistically charming Vladislav (Clement), lady-killer Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) and 8,000 year old Petyr (Ben Frasham) who rarely leaves his coffin. Their peaceful lives of night clubbing, keeping house and eating people are disturbed when Petyr bites Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer), and introduces a younger vampire into the mix. The housemates are forced to teach Nick the lessons for survival, as well as trying not to eat Nick’s best friend Stu (Stuart Rutherford).

There’s no way around saying it - this is a very silly film, but it’s silly for all the right reasons. With this killer concept to play with, the cast and crew have an absolute field day, wringing it for all its comic potential. What really makes the comedy work though is their commitment to the beloved tropes of the vampire genre without compromise. Watching them overcome the short fallings of their situation, like not having reflections or not being able to enter a building without being invited in, are absolute comic gold. These also aren’t vampires trying to reform or suppress their natural instincts, just a bunch of guys trying to deal with living together that also happen to drink blood, so on top of being hilarious, the film is also gloriously bloody. There’s a tremendous amount of love and affection for the genre it’s playing with, and that level of respect elevates the film from dumb jokes to a genuinely memorable comedy hit. It also looks fabulous, the preposterously over-the-top world and outfits of the vampires contrasting beautifully with the mundane modern streets of Wellington. That’s essentially the drive of the comedy of the film, pitting a group of men from another time and culture against a modern world that doesn’t actually believe they exist.


It also helps that every character in the film is pitched to perfection. Waititi, Clement and Brugh have fabulous chemistry together, but have each crafted distinctly wonderful characters. They’re supported by an equally impressive supporting cast, from the beautiful blankness of Rutherford’s Stu to the patiently put-upon Jackie (Jackie van Beek), Deacon’s "familiar" patiently waiting for her master to turn her into a vampire too. There’s also werewolves, zombies and Vlad’s arch-nemesis The Beast to content with, all as memorable as the last.

There’s just so much to celebrate about ‘What We Do In The Shadows’. The comedy is giddily silly, the characters are loveable and the concept works to a fault. This is easily a comedy classic in the making, and one that I know I’ll be returning to again and again. Even just thinking about it makes me want to giggle with joy. It’s also one of the few vampire films in a long time to actually respect the genre it’s riffing on, and in a time where the vampire has lost a lot of its bite, that’s even more cause for celebration.

Because of its low-fi production values, ‘What We Do In The Shadows’ was never going to blow anyone away in high definition, but Madman’s Blu-ray release isn’t anything to be shirked at. The 1080p 1.85:1 transfer maintains the best detail it can from the documentary-style footage, so we still get some excellent detail and vibrant colour without compromising the visual integrity of the film. The same can be said of the DTS-HD MA 5.1, though this is still surprisingly active and exciting. While the focus is on the dialogue, maintaining the documentary illusion, there’s still a lot going on from the support sounds, making it as detailed as the visuals.

This is a very silly film, but it’s silly for all the right reasons.

Madman’s original Blu-ray release had no special features, but this was due to difficulty getting the extra material in time for release. They have more than made up for it with this terrific Fang-bloody-tastic Collector’s Edition. The original disc is still here, but now with a DVD of the film and an extra DVD disc for the special features. Over two hours of content is available, the vast majority consisting of deleted footage from the film. In fact, only one short featurette discusses the making of the film at all. The deleted footage consists of new and extended sequences, extended interviews with all the characters and shorter featurettes that expand on the lives of the characters. It’s all absolute gold and essential viewing for fans of the film. There’s also the original short film that cemented the concept featuring much of the same cast and the basic narrative points that ended up in the full-length film. This is a fabulous package for a fabulous film.

RELEASE DATE: 07/01/2015
RUN TIME: 1h 26m
CAST: Jemaine Clement
Taika Waititi
Jonny Brugh
Stuart Rutherford
Rhys Darby
Ben Fransham
Cori Gonzalez Macuer
Taika Waititi
PRODUCERS: Emanuel Michael
Taika Waititi
Chelsea Winstanley
SCORE: Plan 9
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