What We Do in the Shadows Blu-ray review
“Every few years a secret society in New Zealand gathers for a special event: The Unholy Masquerade. In the months leading up to the ball, a documentary crew was granted full access to a small group of this society.”
Armed with crucifixes, the documentary crew meets the group: Viago (Taika Waititi, 2011’s GREEN LANTERN), Vladislav (Jemaine Clement, FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS, Deacon (Jonathan Brugh, 2012’s HOW TO MEET GIRLS FROM A DISTANCE) and Petyr (Ben Fransham, who appeared on the TV series LEGEND OF THE SEEKER), four vampires with a combined age of 9,424 (mostly because of Petyr, who is a ripe 8,000 and bears a striking resemblance to Count Orlok).
These are not your typical vampires. Sure, they still prowl at night and suck the blood from their prey, but they also have flat meetings and argue over who should do the dishes. Early on, Viago suggests bringing Petyr a broom so he can sweep up some of the bones in the basement. While the crew is shooting the project for The New Zealand Documentary Board, they capture the vampires sharing their stories, sealing the deal with their victims and adapting to technologies their seclusion has robbed them of (when introduced to Google, one wishes to find out the location of a silk scarf he lost in the early 1900s).
Both the mockumentary shtick and the compulsion to hurl vampire movies at the screen are running thin, and so even the casually interested viewer might be cautious. But WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS makes good use of both, using both less as a crutch than means to have fun. The movie doesn’t just try to play off of clichés; it is quite clever in presenting them and skewing them so as to earn a genuine laugh from the audience. Take, for example, when, instead of seeing how they look in a mirror, the vampires take turns making sketches of one another.
Under the watch of writer-directors Waititi (whose 2003 TWO CARS, ONE NIGHT earned an Oscar nomination for Best Original Short) and Clement, who adapt their own 2006 short, WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS is a consistently funny and astute work that sidesteps the obvious and avoids repetition. They, like the rest of the cast, is confident in what will stick and how to approach the gag, and, with very few exceptions, they’re right.
WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS certainly deserves to find an audience. It is one of the more clever entries in either of its targeted genres. How interesting that the most satisfying vampire movie since Sweden’s LET THE RIGHT ONE IN would be a New Zealand comedy.
Video: 1.78:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. Although the colors are fairly limited (especially in the flat), this is a solid presentation that offers fine details and strong black levels.
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Subtitles in English. Dialogue is clean, the sound effects add atmosphere and the score comes through nicely.
Commentary by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi: Fans will enjoy this track, which features Clement and Waititi reflecting on the production.
Behind the Shadows (17:36) collects footage from the set to give viewers a behind-the-scenes look at the production, including a number of scenes being shot.
Video Extras (50:06): There are nine pieces here, which can be viewed separately or as a whole. They are: “Original Short Film,” “Erotic Deacon,” “Viago Sings,” “Vlad Paints,” “Vlad’s Poetry,” “Jackie the Familiar,” “Night Dentist,” “What Stu Does” and “Vampire & Werewolf Dance.”
Interviews (18:35): The following characters are interviewed separately: Deacon, Viago, Vladislav, Police, Werewolves and The Zombie.
Deleted Scenes (31:33): There are 12 here, which can be viewed separately or as a whole. They are: “Let Us In,” “Phone Hypnosis,” “Viago & Deacon,” “My Mate Stu,” “Trade Me,” “Nick’s Victims,” “Stu & Vlad,” “Stu & Witch,” “Nipple Eyes,” “Funeral,” “Stuneral” and “Chaining Stu.”
Promo Videos (6:39): There are six here: “Hobbies,” “Hypnosis,” “Feelings,” “Werewolves,” “Reflections” and “Going Out.”