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This Week's Quote Whore:
Ted Baehr of Movieguide

Do You Believe? is "Beautiful, powerful, and exceptionally well-made.”

What We Do in the Shadows

Last Week: Chappie
Two Weeks Ago: Maps to the Stars
Three Weeks Ago: The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water

Four Fingers - What We Do inthe ShadowsThere are two things I've never found as sexy as I'm supposed to: big fake boobs and vampires. I always feel bad for women with big fake boobs because I wonder what insecurities drove them to silicone. Why did they feel they needed to draw attention away from the wonderful things women naturally have? Specifically, big real boobs. Now, real is sexy, like giant flesh marshmallows, but with nipples. And not like the old marshmallows that are hard, crusty and stuck together. Also, women's breasts should never be put in the microwave. They do not inflate. Or roasted over a fire. That's gross. Why would anyone do that? And yet, can you imagine how many more marshmallows Jet-Puffed would sell if they did have nipples?

Vampires, real or fake, aren't sexy, either. It's not their fault. I can almost understand why some people would think they are. They're suave and powerful, can slip through the darkness and give you eternal life. I can see why someone would find a vampire alluring, especially if it had humongous real boobs. 

The problem with vampires is not the idea, it's the fans. Their entourage is so fucking creepy and obsessive with their dental implants, pasty skin and all that living in their parents' basements updating entries in IMDB and wishing they were really a vampire so they could have a coffin lined with Blade II bed sheets. Ever since Bram Stoker, most vampire stories aren't nearly as erotic as they wish they were. Instead of cool and intriguing, they sound exactly like what they are: the wet dreams of oversexed and underserved fanboys and girls, all sweaty and overwrought.

What We Do int he ShadowsVampires are also overexposed. Bloodsucker stories have become ubiquitous and repetitive. Classic vampires, modern vampires, vampires who go out in the day, vampires who can eat Italian, vampires who wish they didn't have to kill, vampires who can see reflections of themselves, vampires who sparkle and pout, vampires who spend a lot of time at rave parties and plan world domination. But they're all vampires. The tiny variations are there solely as excuses to crank out more of the same shit and give the superfans something to catalog and debate.

There've even been a shitload of vampire spoofs, too and they've mostly sucked. They largely fall into two categories: drooling, unfunny fanboys pointing out discrepancies to other fanboys, and unfunny grassfuckers who shovel crap like Vampires Suck into theaters to milk fanboy teat. A spoof documentary about the mundane lives of vampires sounds obvious, and like more of the same. If you described What We Do in the Shadows as Real World meets Dracula you wouldn't be that far off. This movie is a fuckload funnier than it should have been, though.

First, the title of this movie is misleading. What vampires do in the shadows is very different from what I do, so it's not "we." What I do is largely dependent upon how dark the shadows are, how many people are around, and how badly I need to take a shit. Honestly, it's a relief that this movie's not what I expected, because I was afraid someone beat me to market with my one great story idea, before I could even get a Kickstarter going and find a film crew to capture all of my outdoor pooping.

The thing is, this movie works. It's funny for two reasons. First is that writer/directors Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) and Taika Watiti actually give a shit about the characters. They give them empathetic personalities and backstories. It's not an obvious good and bad guys. Second is that even if the premise is tired, the gags aren't. They aren't retreads and they aren't obvious. They're just as much character as premise based.


What We Do in the Shadows
takes place in the moviemakers' New Zealand, which is apparently a place of gentleness. Sort of like a retirement home for sheepherders. Four bachelor vampires live together in a run-down, and poorly-kept house. There's Viago (Watiti), a dandy fop killed in the 18th century who seeks civility. He creates chore lists and begs his roommates to do the five years of bloodstained dishes at the sink. He wishes they would put down towels and newspaper before feasting on their victims in the living room. Clement plays the once powerful and famous Vladislav the Poker, who has been reduced by a broken heart to pouting and sharing a flat. His once legendary orgies have been reduced from twenty women to two or three. There is also Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), who practices his erotic dancing and strings a human along with promises of immortality so that she'll run his errands. Petyr (Ben Fransham) is the oldest, and a dead ringer for Nosferatu and lives in the basement like a shy teenager.

Their sworn enemies are the werewolves who are trying to cut down on their cursing. "We're werewolves, not swearwolves." That's not easy, though, when a bunch of vampires mock them about sniffing their own crotches (they don't; they sniff each other's crotches).

What We Do in the Shadows

There is not a lot of plot to What We Do in the Shadows. It's more like a series of sketches, mostly good. What story there is revolves around a newly minted bloodsucker (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer) trying to get in good with the others. He's a little too excited about his newfound immortality, though. He can't resist telling century-old secrets to cashiers, girls in bars, and then, unfortunately, a vampire hunter. He ignores his colleagues warnings not to eat human food and winds up with an epic upset stomach. The story comes to a head at the annual gala for vampires, zombies and witches called the Unholy Masquerade, at the Victoria Bowling Hall.

What We Do in the Shadows looks lovingly low-budget, mostly shot in a house that could be the Haunted Mansion with a coating of grease. The special effects are limited, yet surprisingly effective. The movie slows down while it searches for a thread to pull everything together. But it's funny. Fucking funny. And that's because Clement and Watiti do what good comedy requires: they make themselves laugh. They care about the characters and this stuff is funny to them.

I think of the tragedy that would have befallen this material in the Hollywood machine. It would have been dumbed the fuck down until nobody involved laughed, but the moviemakers expected audiences to. That, among other mistakes, doesn't happen, and What We Do in the Shadows ends up being pretty fucking good. Still not sexy, though. Four Fingers.

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