Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Postmodern vampires

Vampires are just like you and me. They have their share of hang ups, insecurities, romantic and intimacy problems, even difficulties keeping the house clean. That seems to be what the New Zealand offbeat comedy What We Do in the Shadows (written and directed by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, who also star) is trying to convey to a world that only has the most rudimentary stereotypes about the creatures that come out at night. The comedy, which opens at the Landmark Main Theatre in Royal Oak Friday, is a documentary that pulls the coffin lid back on this world of nocturnal souls. We meet Viago, Vladislav, Deacon and Peter, vampires and housemates hundreds of years old who haunt a rundown - what did you expect? - house somewhere in Wellington, NZ. The documentary crew sent to film them has been given crucifixes for their protection. The movie starts by Viago waking up at 6 pm when darkness falls and giving the crew - and us - a tour of their ramshackle abode. He wakes Deacon (hanging upside down in a closet), Vlad (who’s in bed with a group of women) and the frightening anti-social Peter (in a basement crypt). Viago, a bit of an 18th century dandy, is the neat freak to his dishevelled housemates. He calls a house meeting. Deacon hasn’t washed dishes in five years and they’re overflowing in the blood-splattered sink. And what a mess his housemates make when they attack someone. “If you’re going to eat a victim on my nice clean couch put down some newspapers on the floor.” But the boys really want to get along. Viago informs the viewer that “vampires have had a very bad rap.” The lads take us on a tour of a day in their lives. We meet Jackie, a “familiar” who does the boy’s drudge work like scrubbing blood-splattered rooms. She desperately wants to become a vampire but feels discriminated against. “All I’m saying is that if I had a penis they would have bitten me years ago.” And gets in her digs. “They wear blouses, it’s this homoerotic dick biting club.” Viago, Deacon and Vlad head out for a night on the town. And like many humans they’re rejected at elite clubs by bouncers. Viago, for his part, likes to be nice when he stalks someone. “Play some music, maybe give them some nice wine, it’s their last moments alive so why not make it a nice experience?” Trouble befalls the group when they run into a pack of human werewolves. Later, they capture Nick and turn him into a vampire. But Nick doesn’t know the rules, and does things like rudely flying through the windows and telling all his friends of his new status, which results in the death of poor Peter by a vampire hunter. Nick is put on trial, not least because he insists on wearing the same jackets as Deacon. You get the idea. This movie is a send up of our current obsession with vampires, done in doc mock fashion. I’m hardly into vampire movies and even a movie making fun of them wasn’t all that appealing. But there are enough laugh out loud moments in What We Do in the Shadows that I’d recommend it for a creepy fun night out.

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