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What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

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During a badly hungover train journey from London back home last weekend I turned to some classic Flight of the Conchords tunes on my iPod to get me through. The New Zealand duo have a back catalogue of parody songs and two HBO television series, and if you haven’t checked them out before then I strongly recommend. When I got home and collapsed on the sofa I began scrolling through Netflix for an easy to watch film to nurse me through the dying embers of my killer headache, and turned to a comedy co-created by one of the pair, Jermaine Clement. He and Taika Waitiki co-wrote, directed and starred in this hilarious horror mockumentary about cameramen granted full access to the house of a Wellington based vampires. What We Do in the Shadows was exactly what I needed.

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I missed the film during it’s original release in cinemas. To my mind it wasn’t out for long, and that was a shame as I was huge fan of Clement’s Flight of the Conchords work in particular. He and Bret McKenzie make up a great double act, and eventually transferred their live deadpan delivery of surreal and hilarious songs to a cult favourite television show. ‘Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenoceros,’ ‘Too Many Dicks,’ and ‘Albi the Racist Dragon’ were played to death while I was at uni, and when I heard one half of the group had been heavily involved in this new comedy I was gutted to have missed it. Catching it on Netflix for the first time a few months ago I was blown away with the originality of the take on what had become a heavily over-saturated market of vampire films. The FOTC sense of humour runs right throughout it (there’s even an appearance by Rhys Darby), and the jokes hit home every time.

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Based on a 2006 short by Clement and Waititi, the film tells the story of the tensions that can arise in a house full of killer vampires that have been around for hundreds of years, and their place in modern society. Waititi is excellent as the film’s uptight guide, 379 year old Viago. He’s so fussy about house cleanliness that he feels the need to ask his housemates to wash the blood off cutlery, lay newspapers and towels on the floor around their soon-to-be prey, and pick up used spinal columns after themselves. Clement plays 862 year old Vladislav (“Vlad the Poker”), whose past powers in torture and mind control are waning. Jonathan Brugh plays Deacon (183), a serial knitter and bad boy, uses his human slave Jackie to lure unsuspecting virgins for the group to devour. Finally there is 8,000 year old “sweet” Petyr, a Nosferatu look-a-like who does little more than kill, eat and snarl. The film never lets up as the semi improvised jokes come thick and fast. The actor’s deadpan delivery and a brilliant set lead you to really fall for the world they inhabit and rules they live by. The special effects and wire work are subtly brilliant. Vampires raise from their coffins, fly up in to the air angrily hissing, and the moment Deacon clambers out of a small rucksack is actually pretty scary too. There’s even a great Inception-esc spinning corridor fight scene which I really enjoyed.

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If you’re a fan of horror, comedy, or Flight of the Conchords, looking for something new on Netflix, or nursing a banging headache, then What We Do in the Shadows will fit the bill. It’s so good that I’ve watched it twice now in relatively quick succession and just writing about it now makes me want to sit down and put it on again.

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