Tuesday, July 21, 2015

"What We Do In The Shadows": Flight of the Vamp-chords

Now Available on DVD and Blu-ray

I absolutely adore Flight of the Conchords.  It had some of the tightest and wittiest writing of any television comedy in recent memory, which is all the more tragic considering the show’s incredibly short run of twenty-two episodes.  So, imagine my glee to hear that co-writer and co-star from the show, Jemaine Clement, was teaming up with an old comedic partner and fellow Conchords contributor Taika Waititi to write and direct a new film.  And truly this new film does not disappoint, particularly if you are a fan of their previous work on that legendary show.

Shot in mockumentary style, What We Do in the Shadows follows the exploits of a group of vampires living in a flat together in New Zealand.  This is a film that lives and dies (and re-lives) with its characters, a well-realized bunch of misfits who have a fantastic working chemistry.  Viago (Waititi) is an 18th century aristocrat who is more than a bit uptight and awkward; Vladislav (Clement) is a Middle Ages torturer who just oozes sex appeal (to surprising effect); Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) is the group’s young slacker, only 183 years old; and Petyr (Ben Fransham) is the 8000 year old Nosferatu living in the basement.

To say this film has a plot would be generous, but it isn’t really a film that needs one.  Akin to Waititi’s and Clement’s roots in television writing, Shadows seems much more interested in taking these really well conceived characters and putting them in situations that show off precisely how ridiculous they can be.  This can be something so mundane as getting dressed for a party without having the benefit of looking in the mirror, as life-changing as teaching a newly bitten vampire how to behave amongst his own kind, or as absurd as becoming friends with a human while figuring out how to fight to urge to eat him.  Each of these scenarios is presented in sitcomic style, not dissimilar to The Office or Parks and Rec, yet still retains that sort of naïve charm that made Flight of the Conchords so enjoyable.

If there’s one criticism that comes with that, though, it’s that Shadows doesn’t end up feeling like a film by the end; it feels like an extended pilot for a television show that will never come.  It is a very good pilot, and the scenarios that play out will stay with you long after the film ends, but it feels like you’ve just started to know the characters and see how their dynamics could evolve before, suddenly, it’s the end credits and everyone’s getting a hasty epilogue.  Is it unfair to criticize a film for leaving you wishing for more episodes?  Probably, but I feel it bears mentioning.

Obviously, though, I love this movie.  The characters are all likeable, the scenarios are hilarious, and I found myself genuinely sad when the credits rolled, not because the film itself made me sad, but because I wasn’t ready for it to end.  If you love Flight of the Conchords, you’ll love What We Do in the Shadows.

So whatever happened to that Flight of the Conchords movie that was teased a few years back?  Is that something you’d still like to see?  Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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