FILM FAVORITES: ‘What We Do in the Shadows’ presents a satirical take on found footage

Film Favorites LogoOver 16 years ago, The Blair Witch Project ushered in the era of “found footage” films, turning a tiny budget of $22,500 into almost $250 million.

The film’s success opened the flood gates for filmmakers looking to be the next rags-to-riches story, which eventually turned the realistic, hand-held camera style genre into a gimmick. But the 2015 film What We Do in the Shadows used that gimmick to its advantage, presenting a sophisticated satire piece about what it is really like to be a vampire.

Sounds ridiculous, right? Trust me, it is.

The creation of director and writer Taika Waititi, What We Do focuses on a documentary crew tasked with following around three vampires in modern-day New Zealand as they try to blend in and adapt to the environment around them.

The film stars Jermain Clement, mostly known for being a member of the comedy musician duo Flight of the Concords, in addition to Rhys Darby and Waititi. These New Zealand actors are not household names in the U.S., but soon will be.

What_We_Do_in_the_Shadows_movie posterThe strongest part of What We Do is the blatant self awareness the film carries throughout its 85-minute run time. It knows it is a comedic depiction of a dark, fantastical source material, which is a bold move in its own right. The film also uses the found footage style to its favor, as what seems like a run-of-the-mill documentary quickly turns into a hilarious horror farce.

What We Do portrays all the stereotypes we have come to know about vampires, and presents them to the viewer in a new light. Ever wonder how awkward it would be to woo someone for consumption? Or how long it takes for a vampire to get ready to go out because they can’t see their reflections in a mirror? These are the absurdities What We Do in the Shadows addresses.

The acting is where the film could have become a campy nightmare, but all characters are portrayed with subtle honesty and, again, self-awareness. There is one particular scene where the group of blood-suckers stumbles upon a group of werewolves, one of them hurdling a cuss word toward the vamps. “Repeat after me, ‘We are werewolves, not swearwolves,’” the pack leader said to the group.

This should give you a good idea of what to expect heading into What We Do.

Now before you go out and rent this picture for family movie night, know this: What We Do is most definitely an adult comedy. It earns its R rating, but is not uncomfortable or too over the top for of-age moviegoers.

After having a very limited release in the U.S., the foreign English-language film received enough praise in the states to garner a wider DVD release, hitting the shelves in late July. What We Do can be found in almost all movie rental outlets and big-brand retail stores — I bought my own copy at Meijer.

In the end, What We Do is the perfect satire picture to give fans of the stagnant found footage genre a
pick-me-up.

Leave a Reply