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What We Do In the Shadows

Year: 2014
Production Co: Unison Films
Director: Jemaine Clement/Taika Waititi
Writer: Jemaine Clement/Taika Waititi
Cast: Taika Waititi, Jemaine Clement, Jonny Brugh, Cori Gonzalez-Macuer , Ben Fransham, Rhys Darby, Jackie van Beek

Taika Waititi, Jemaine Clement and the rest of the Flight of the Conchords guys' films always have a very unique and regional comic outlook that's common outside America. They take the pompous, self-important air that we're used to from American movies and then put pins in such moments and characterisations because of the more provincial tastes or cultures found in Britain, Australia, New Zealand and other countries where we're far warier of such dramatic profundity.

It was the whole charm of Eagle vs Shark, where Jarrod (Jemaine Clement) thinks he's a mysterious rebel trying to avenge a dark past when he's actually just a suburban bogan who doesn't realise how dumb he sounds on his self-appointed quest. The entire approach is encapsulated beautifully in the line where he tells his intended victim's father on the phone to pass on the message that 'justice is coming', and the hard-of-hearing dad cheerfully tells him he'll pass on the message that Justin called and hangs up.

What We Do in the Shadows has the same beautifully self-parodying tone. As the soft spoken, at-times painfully understanding and friendly vampire Viago, writer/director Waititi is seen carefully putting towels and newspaper down around the girl he's bought home to feed off like he's preparing to bring home a pet that isn't housetrained. When he bites her and hits her carotid artery, blood spraying around the living room of the apartment, he looks at the camera sheepishly, more embarrassed about the mess he's made rather than the young woman he's just murdered.

Viago shares the house with other vampires Vladislav (Clement), Deacon (Jonny Brugh) and Petyr (Ben Fransham) and have given a documentary camera crew unprecedented access to their house and life where the unholy is mixed hilariously with the mundane. The alarm goes off at 6pm and they rise from their coffins, proceeding to have arguments about whose turn it is to do the dishes (arguing so much they end up floating in midair hissing at each other like angry cats).

It's as much a collection of skits as it is a story, and when it does start to include an arc to the characters after they turn a new member – Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer) and have to deal with the trouble he's causing – the story takes its time moving forward, stepping aside for plenty of other comic subplots.

And at every stage, the script wields the same brilliantly timed pin in any number of ballooning pomposities. We've been hearing for the entire film about Vladislav's arch-nemesis The Beast complete with a blast of melodramatic music and expect a demon or demigod hell bent on destroying humanity, but when the boys attend the annual masquerade dance party at a local social club for Wellington's assorted monsters, it turns out to just be his ex girlfriend.

Another classic... when the guys first butt heads with a local werewolf pack led by obscenity-averse Anton (Flight of the Conchords' Rhys Darby), the verbal jousting turns profane. Anton shuts everyone in the pack up, asking 'what are we'? Duly chastised, they all look at their feet and mumble 'we're werewolves, not swearwolves.'

They're just a couple of the hilarious motifs that blend monster mythology with the modern vagaries of trying to live with flatmates and get on in society – there are only a couple of nightclubs vampires can go to because the bouncers know them and they can't enter any building without being invited, for instance.

Some of the laughs are deeply subtle, some are overt and slapstick, but they're all brilliantly written, staged and performed and What We Do in the Shadows is a classic mockumentary comedy.

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