Some vampires from New Zealand made a comedy

what4What We Do in the Shadows (2015) is a comedy about some vampires who share a flat together, and their misadventures being idiots.  Vampires are a good vehicle to lead an offbeat comedy, because the audience gets to watch all the strange and weird stuff about being undead, which consists of puffy shirts and social drama.  

What (2015) is a smalltime faux-documentary made in New Zealand on a shoestring budget.  It doesn’t show.  Vampires fly around like idiots and bang into stuff, and the special effects are pretty good.  What they can’t achieve, they disguise and shoot around, because it’s easy to make your film seem dodgy and unfocused as a documentary, since they’ve got a fake camera crew following around these pretend vampires.

what3The four vampire roommates can’t get along and most of the film is about their relationship.  Viago is the puffy shirt gay guy and he likes things very clean, so he has a flat meeting early on in the film to raise his concerns about Vlad not doing the dishes.  The jokes are mostly tongue-and-cheek.  There’s no bathroom humor, unless you count spitting up blood after eating steak fries, which I think is more a joke about stakes (steak fries, get it?) than anything else.  I didn’t catch it at first.  I’m still not sure if I understand all the jokes.

The cast is a good one.  The movie features mostly unknowns, but Rhys Darby sneaks in there and this seems like his kind of movie, since he does that dry humor all the time in his stand-up.  I remember him from the recent X-Files run on FOX, where he played a lizard person who turns into a human.  He obviously brought a lot of comedy background to the X-Files and TV in general, where he’s been working consistently since 2005.  In What, Darby plays the leader of a werewolf sect, who are natural rivals with the vampires, and they call each other funny names. 

what1The fake-documentary camera crew follows around the fake vampires, as they meet friends and go clubbing at an empty bar.  Pretty funny.  The awkward social situations are the best comedy, like when some of the roommates want to eat their new human friend, but others don’t.  This is also a 90 minute movie, which means the set pieces are well-paced and to the point, so they get to the comedy pretty quickly.  The climax to the film features a fight between the vampires and the werewolves, which leads a pretty funny finale.  It works.  

Overall, this is a good film.  Rhys Darby steals the show.  The comedy works.  I don’t even have a whiny complaint about the story, because that works too.  The only thing I should note is that the characters are sometimes hard to understand because of their thick New Zealand accent.  It didn’t really bother me that much.  The character interaction is the best part of the movie and I even liked the dark humor.  It wasn’t too much and that didn’t put me off the movie, which is a good thing.  I hear they are making a sequel.  Hopefully they’ll give Rhys Darby more to do.

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