Darkly funny, with teeth

It’s the darnedest thing with What We Do In The Shadows: coming out of the movie theatre, I thought I had seen an OK comedy, and now, I still think about it with a smile. I guess I like it better than I wanted to admit.

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What We Do… tells about the problems and pastimes of four vampires from all over the world and from different historic eras who now live together in an old Wellington house. Viago is from late Renaissance and has come to New Zealand for love; some nights, you can see him staring at a window of a retirement home in which his immortal beloved, now a 96 year-old woman, is watching TV. He doesn’t mind the age gap – he’s four times older than she is.

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There’s Vladislav from the early Middle Ages, and really rather violent when he finds out that modern people no longer succumb to his powers of suggestion and hypnosis. When people catch him staring through the window into their living-room, they invite him in. He is mortally afraid of the Beast, who is not who you think it might be. The youngest member is Deacon, a nazi vampire, who actually boasts about his involvement in highly unethical medical experiments. He thinks he is a great erotic dancer, but… erm, no, he isn’t. The oldest inhabitant is Petyr, who is over 8’000 years old. The others are in awe of him and don’t dare complain when he doesn’t do the dishes.

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I guess I liked the jokes and funny situations as much as anyone, but I sometimes need some kind of minimal story to go along with. There are a few scenes where the vampires have to get along with a bunch of werewolves who try to work on their bad behavior: “Remember your manners, guys: werewolves, not swearwolves.” On the whole, the movie consists of a 86-minute parade of vampire jokes, most of them funny. I liked the two young girl vampires who have made it their mission to kill every pedophile they can find. What We Do… is a comedy on the surface, but there is dark stuff lurking underneath.

There is a new addition to their group by accident: Nick, who goes around telling people he starred in Twilight, and nobody believes him because, well, he looks nothing like Robert Pattinson. Perhaps the biggest joke of them all is not in the movie, but in the production notes: Some of the scenes were shot at the place where they shot some of the Lord of the Rings stuff – it’s impossible to tell since all the scenes take place during nighttime.

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There is a human friend, Stu, who tells the group about modern communication. When Deacon receives his first ever text message, it’s from Vladislav: “There’s a crucifix behind you.” Poor Deacon almost jumps out of his skin. Viago, before biting his virgins, makes them dinner and plays a song on his guitar: “They should at least feel good and have fun before I kill them.” And so on. If you need a really strong story in a movie, look elsewhere. If not, you are in for a really funny comedy.

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