Thursday, March 05, 2015

Pop Stuff: What We Do in the Shadows; The One I Love

What I'm hearing, watching, reading, etc.


What We Do in the Shadows. Vampires aren't typically portrayed as likeable. But the bloodsucking crew in this horror spoof is downright loveable.

Shot in the overdone, but still effective mockumentary style, the film opens with vamp Viago (Taika Waititi) reaching out of his coffin to shut off the alarm on his clock radio. Viago's friendly and goodhearted. And clean. He gets after his flatmates for not doing the dishes and for leaving bones and other debris around the basement. And he always puts down towels or newspapers before feeding, so his victim's blood won't stain the furniture.

The rest of the crew isn't quite so nice, but they're fun. Vladislav (Flight of the  Conchords' Jemaine Clement) would have us believe he's sexy and dangerous, but he's the only one buying his publicity. He's not "The Impaler." He's "The Poker." Meanwhile, Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) is even more delusional than Vladislav about his sexiness and dangerousness. He's insecure and a slob. And finally, Petyr (Ben Fransham) is actually pretty dang scary. He looks like Nosferatu with worse teeth. But you can't help liking him anyway. Just watch your neck.

With the exception of Petyr, who just sort of hisses, the vampires all talk to the camera, supposedly manned by filmmakers from the New Zealand Documentary Film Board, venting about one another "Real World" style and sharing their observation about the vampire lifestyle, which - apart from the occasional feasting - is pretty dull and routine. 

Vampires must be invited into a building, which makes it hard to get into the local nightclubs, such as they are. It's also a bother dressing up when you can't see your reflection. Plus, there's also a chance you'll run into the local gang of werewolves, who smell and don't like you. It's only when a new young vampire and his pal, Stu, start hanging out, that things get a bit more fun.

"Shadows" is one of the best and funniest all-out comedies I've seen since Christopher Guest's great run of similarly absurd comic "documentaries." It's silly but witty and quick-paced. The horror-humor is fresh and well-observed.

If you like "Flight of the Conchords," you'll love it. Though there are no songs, Clement co-wrote the script with Waititi and there are a few lines you'll continue to quote for months afterward.

I can see it becoming a cult seasonal hit and have already penciled it in for screening this Halloween.


The One I Love. Now streaming on Netflix and Amazon Prime, this is a good movie night pick. Elisabeth Moss of "Mad Men" and Mark Duplass star as a couple, Ethan and Sophie, whose marriage is on its last legs. At the suggestion of their counselor (Ted Danson), they go away for a weekend. He recommends a nice place in the woods where they can reconnect and remember what drew them together in the first place.

The retreat is nice. It's quiet. They're having fun. And they're all alone together. Or so they think.

It turns out both both Ethan and Sophie have doubles on the property. And/or there's some weird time/dimension shiftiness going on. The consider fleeing - it's just too weird - but end up going back, intrigued by what's going on, and the dopplegangers. There's something intriguing  and seductive about spending time with the spitting image of your loved one. Someone you know, but don't.

Lightly comic and not overly scarey or sad, the film makes us question what sparks relationships and what makes them last as we grow and change. Does the person we fall in love remain that person? Do we?

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