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What We Do in the Shadows (2014)
Written & Directed by Jemaine Clement & Taika Waititi
In 2005 Jermaine Clement and Taikik Waitiuti, whose friendship had spanned over two decades decided to come together and make a short film entitled What We Do in the Shadows: Interviews with some Vampires. Shot mockumentary style, it displayed a facet to the universal monster we had yet to see explored. No longer leaving audiences left to wonder how the typical creatures of night may have spent their down time, it unearthed some of the more finer details and revealed all the in-between’s from hunting down virgins to getting along with ones flatmates. All occurring in the small town of Wellington, New Zealand several months before their secret society was to meet at the annual Unholy Masquerade. Granting a documentary crew amnesty and providing them with crosses as they ventured into the world of Vamprism to see what life looked like once forced into the shadows.
Vladislav the Poker: 862 years old (Jermaine Clement) “In those days, of course, life was tough for a sixteen-year-old.” Bearing an attire resembling Gary Oldman’s Count Dracula with the nickname Vlad the Poker (akin to Vlad the Impaler), he was the more old-fashioned one of the bunch. Howbeit a bit of a sadist when first starting out, he was forced into seclusion after a humiliating defeat by his arch nemesis, The Beast (Pauline Ivanovich). Affected greatly and upon further discovering that his ex (The Beast) would also be named the special guest for their annual Masquerade, greatly deteriorates in health; almost ruining any chance of him attending. Nevertheless at the last-minute making a dramatic entrance which forces him to face off against a newly founded enemy (Julian; Jason Hoyte) before forced to leave with his friends abruptly. Subsequently attempting to reunite with his former lover but to no avail.
Viago: 379 years (Taika Waititi) “It’s unacceptable to have so many bloody dishes all over.” Acting more as the den mother of the group, we follow his perspective for the most part. Starting out each night promptly at 6pm, he’d wake the others in order to have their house meeting in which flat responsibilities (or lack thereof) were discussed. Creating a chore wheel as a means of making things fair, however divided on exactly what the “extra” duties of being a vampire entailed. Having originally come to New Zealand once the presumed love of his life immigrated there, he was mistakenly detoured on an eighteen month trip by his servant. Forced to spend the next several decades adoring from afar as she had married another. Yet enough time having passed and recent endeavors proving anything could happen makes him also conclude that it was time to turn her, despite the major age difference they knew would be brought up from their peers. What with her being ninety but Viago spanning over three centuries and all.
Deacon: 183 years (Jonny Brugh) “Well I’m glad to hear that I am cool…” Though initially the youngest of the bunch, Deacon was considered the “young bad boy” of the group. First turned while walking alongside a castle in which he was dragged back to a lair and turned before the brink of death by Petyr. To then spend time as a Nazi vampire before forced to flee the country, eventually ending up in New Zealand where he filled his time with various hobbies (like dancing). Having a familiar named Jackie (Jackie van Beek) who did typical errands like getting his sheets cleaned or assisting in cleaning up the yard on the grounds that she’d receive eternal life in exchange. Constantly strung along despite (in the end) able to rid herself from his possession and find another to turn her, living out the life she finally felt destined for.
Nick: 2 months (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer) “Twilight!” Originally meant as a sacrifice set-up by Deacon’s familiar, he was also turned by Petyr after ineffectively trying to escape. Introducing the group to Stu which essentially saves him given a constant need for attention that ends up costing one of the flatmates their life. The equivalent to what I imagine, a hipster vampire, his humor falls short of the others superiority as he won’t be the sole reason to stick around or even see the film again. But his presence distinctively changes the group for better or worse.
Petyr: 8,000 years (Ben Fransham) The strong, silent one of the bunch Having turned two of the flatmates, Petyr kept mainly to himself. Scattered throughout the montage of photos in the opening credits there wasn’t much the others felt they needed to make him be apart of. Given the amazingly extensive make-up, I certainly wish his character was featured more but because of the vacant demeanor there really was no place for him in the majority of the film other than as a prop.
Though mid-way there’s a shift when Stu (Stu Rutherford) is introduced (more or less) as a mentor. Working as a software analyst by day and showing them how to use the internet and any modern-day devices they might have passed over the past several centuries by night. Setting up the end of the film with the possibility of another installment entitled We’re Wolves, as we find the two groups combining forces once the dust had settled. Simplistic in its nature, it had its appropriate nods to former films and some folklore obtained from copious amounts of research. Clearly putting a lot of love into the idea as Clement and Waitiuti wrote something they were able to handle perfectly, able to articulate to their cast what was wanted and tackling the making of the film completely as a duo.
As financing can always prove a problem, at one point it was discussed making this movie in America but the simple fact is an over-sized budget would have ended up harming it and using their friends as opposed to some overly glamorized cast kept it more realistic. It also granted them more freedom as the majority of the film was improvised by the Actors, obtaining at least 130 hours of footage. Brimming with the deadpan humor rightly familiar to the cast it should rather be celebrated for the love letter it rightfully is.