What We Do In the Shadows – Movie Reviews

In 2013, the New Zealand Documentary Board commissioned filmmakers Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) and Taika Waititi to film the lives of four vampires living in the Wellington suburb of Te Aro. Donning crucifixes and garlic, Clement, Waititi and an unsuspecting film crew live with the vampires giving us a glimpse of the day-to-day struggles, they face living in today’s world.

What We Do In The Shadows 02This cast of vampires include Viago (Taika Waititi), the leader of the pack. At 379 years old, this Victorian-aged vampire lives a neat and tidy life, especially when he lays down absorbent towels just before feasting on his next victim. Vladislav (Jemaine Clement) is the sexy 862-year-old, Russian vampire (not sure how he arrived in New Zealand). Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) is the youngest at 183 and self-proclaimed party animal. Finally, Petyr (Ben Fransham) is the oldest at over 8,000 years old. Petyr’s age has deformed his body and facial feature, making him the scariest one in appearance.

What We Do in the Shadows documents various facets of the vampiric lifestyle including the role of a vampire’s familiar, humans who do the bidding of vampires and receive protection from other vampires. It explores the relationship with rival pack of Werewolves, led by its Anton (Rhys Darby).

The fun starts when a new recruit, Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Maucuer) wants to be part of the pack. He brings his own best friend and familiar Stu (Stuart Rutherford), who is a computer wiz and teaches the vampires about YouTube and Facebook. The vampires are having a hard time not only accepting a new recruit to their ranks but forcing him to make changes in his life for the sake of the group.

What We Do In The Shadows 03What We Do in the Shadows is a hilarious “mockumentary” with laughs coming at you scene after scene. The movie is shot in the “reality show” style consisting of talking head interviews and clips similar to This is Spinal Tap. The movie succeeds by grounding the supernatural world of vampires into reality. Events make sense to audiences and does not resort to wackiness.

A movie filled with gags and bits would become tiresome, but the source of the humor comes in the tragic irony and pathos of the vampiric life. When Viago is hungry, he brings his “date” home for a meal. The empathic Viago engages in a fascinating discussion of her dreams and long term future and then kills her. The movie also explores other themes like friendship, loyalty, and survival.

What We Do in the Shadows is one of the funniest movies so far this year. The film’s jokes and gags consistently hit. Writers Clement and Waititi give us the storyline that actually tells a compelling story and the style of the film is well-balanced giving each character a moment to shine. As a documentary, the lives of vampires are interesting from beginning to end.

The movie has comedic scary moments but were safe enough for an adult needing an opportunity to laugh real hard.

It Follows – Movie Review – AFI Film Fest

Filmmaker David Robert Mitchel brings his supernatural horror film, “It Follows” to the 2014 AFI Film Fest as a part of AFI’s midnight screenings. “It Follows” is a Detroit college student Jay, who finds herself being followed relentlessly by a unworldly zombie-like creature intent on chasing and killing Jay. Her only help comes in the form of her sister and friends Yara and Paul.

Jay’s nightmare began after having sex with her new boyfriend, Ryan. She soon discovers that her sexual encounter was an opportunity for her boyfriend to pass on a deadly curse to Jay as if it was a horrific game of hot potato making Jay “it.”

Now Jay has visions of a demonic killer appearing everywhere: at school, on her street, and in her home. All Jay can do is run, bike, and drive away to avoid being caught. She can also sex with another person and pass the curse to the next.

“It Follows” is a creepy chase movie forcing our main character to be constantly on the look for a stranger in the crowd or a shadowy figure at night and run for survival. Anyone she sees can be a killer, which intensifies her paranoia to the point of finding a way to stop the creature, escape forever or be caught and end the chase once and for all.

What makes “It Follows” a good movie is the simple story of solving a supernatural mystery in order to survive and return Jay’s life back to normal. What makes “It Follows” a good horror movie are the simple and straightforward rules.

As with all good horror movies, there are rules. For example, the creature always knows where Jay is and will head in that direction at an undead pace. The creature can take on the appearance of anybody, but it can only be seen by the person who is “it.” Finally, the chase never ends. Sure you can pass on the curse, but if that person dies, you’re “it” again.

The movie stars Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Daniel Zovatto, Jake Weary, Olivia Luccardi and Lili Sepe.

Filmmaker David Robert Mitchel employs two cinema devices to heighten the intensity of his film. The first is the use of the sweeping one-shot. The camera slowly pans in 360 degrees showing what is around Jay. What is real and what is not? The effect leaves audiences a more ominous feeling than scary.

The second device is the music. Music is used to create anxiety in the audience. It would not be a surprise if the director used the music as an homage to the 80’s. My problem with the movie is that the music heavily relies on the synthesizer. The music is not reminiscent of synthesized scores of the 70’s and 80’s, it a replica of the heavy synth of the 70’s and 80’s. The music seems out-of-place when played in a modern movie theater.

“It Follows” is a solid horror thriller. The basic premise is an innocent victim receives a curse and must run away from an unstoppable supernatural killer. Although it’s the killer’s job to hunt the cursed, there are simple rules employed to make the killing interested. Then there is the mystery that needs to be solved to end the terror…or does it.