If my puns haven’t given me away already, I have a confession: I have a pretty shitty sense of humour. But since we are among intellectuals, we will call it absurd rather than shitty. I also like vampires, a lot. They are my first mythological obsession and, while hopeful parents believed they will go away with time, they were just a preview to a penchant for theology and myth which is better kept hidden in good society. Anyway I will always say yes: to a good cinematic/literary vampiric appearance. So imagine my joy when I heard about this cinematic masterpiece:
Promise of absurd humor and vampires? Say no more!
What We Do in the Shadows is a 2014 New Zealander mockumentary about a vampiric house-sharing in Wellington getting ready for the annual Unholy Masquerade. The production team follows four vampires (soon enough five) in their
daily nightly-life. Hilarity ensues.
A good parody
One of the great strength of this movie, in addition to the evident passion of the directors/writers/main actors for this project, is that it’s a good a parody of the vampire genre. There is two reason to make parody: you hate something so much that it’s deserved when you make fun of it, or you love something so much that it’s deserved when you make fun of it. I think that this parody came from the second type of reasoning. Watch the movie pay homage to you cinematic faves:
Petyr as Nosferatu, 1922
Vladislav as Bram Stoker’s Dracula, 1992
Viago as someone from the Interview with the Vampire, 1994 (probably Louis)
Deacon as one of those edgy vampires that the cool kids like nowadays (Trueblood? I don’t know I was never part of the cool kids to begin with, or maybe it’s the Lost Boys?)
And of course there is nobody’s favorite, Nick as:
So yeah, you feel the reverence to the genre pretty heavily. But you gonna appreciate the absolute irreverence of the movie in general too. Because, expect for Petyr who doesn’t talk (Nosferatu was a silent movie), those vampires are right in between total cute noobs and soulless creatures of night, as strange as it sounds. Think of all the funny head-canons you ever imagined about vampires, or think of all the incoherencies you ever pinpointed about vampirism…they are in it.
Biting into an artery to draw blood is probably a bad idea? Yes it is. Having a good hair
day night is probably difficult when you don’t have a reflection? Yes it is. Isn’t it difficult to find cute clothes when you can’t get out during the day? Yes it is. What if old vampires were confused by new technologies and needed a notpartofthecoolkids nerd to teach them? They are definitively clueless and Stu is very cool to teach them about Google and therefore shouldn’t be eaten, thank you very much. What if vampires had silly hobbies? Deacon is a skillful knitter, and he is knitting a scarf for Stu. What if Middle-Ages’s questionable bestiaries were the result of actual strange animals? Well…
Of course they also face terrible vampiric threats: sunlight, mortal food, werewolves, crucifix, Christians etc. And they feed as vampires, without second thoughts. Expect for Viago, but it’s okay because in the end:
Not being blind to the problematic tropes of your genre:
Another thing that make this movie so enjoyable is that, while being clearly attached to the vampire genre and its codes, it’s not blind to its problematic tropes.
The misogynist aspect of the vampire genre is nicely tackled down. Even if the movie doesn’t pass the Bechdel test (at least I don’t think) our few vampire ladies are never looked down and don’t take shit from anyone. Special mention to our two babies vampire eating a pedophile. And what about the virginity and purity of the victim? Well the preference for virgin victim is applied to men and women equally. And as Vladislav puts its so well it’s not a question of purity rather:
The movie also make a mockery of the “angsty vampire got a pass for every horrible thing they do because they have suffered so much” trope. No, they are all pretty terrible people and it is made completely clear through their relations with their human servants and the hilarious moment in Vladislav’s dungeons. You still like them though, but you like them for what they are: very goofy-lovable-soulless monster. Gotta be honest with yourself sometimes.
Not even the romantic age gap is spared. Because let’s be real, big age difference in romantic partners are becoming frequent in vampire media, and the way it’s often treated is probelmatic. Not only do the characters address this age difference and recognize that it could be a problem but it’s even highlighted by the fact that the “human” partner looks way older than the vampire one and still the vampire say that if someone as nothing to do with the other it’s him.
And I am pretty sure that it also makes fun at the mockumentary genre with the re-enactment part.
Cult Quotes, Cult Quotes everywhere:
And another thing that What We Do in the Shadow provides massively is cult quotes. So for those of you who still aren’t convinced by the epicness of this movie have some:
Werewolves leader: What are we?
The pack: Werewolves not swearwolves.
Random vampire: I can smell a virgin at a thousand paces!
Deacon: Go on then, take your thousand paces and smell yourself!
Viago: I wrote that song for a lovely lady that I was once in love with. Alas, it was never meant to be, because I ate her.
Viago: Petyr is 8000 years old, we are not going to have Petyr at the meeting.
Deacon: Get up and stand on this ceiling! Like a man!
Vladislav: The other day, I dragged a man’s body down the hallway and noticed there was no dust. I kind of swept the hallway.
And of course, the inescapable:
Viago: What are you bidding on?
Vladislav: I am bidding on a table.
Anyway, if you like vampires and absurd humor do yourself a favor: go and watch this movie.
I am leaving you on those words. I have dark bidding to do.
All images courtesy of Unison Films.