Well, I have found my SXSW Film Festival favorite (so far, anyway), and it is Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi's slice-of-life vampire mockumentary WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS. To say this film is funny is the understatement of the year. Not only is the movie hilarious, it is clever, smart, and unlike anything I've seen before.
The film begins as a group of New Zealand flat mates are introduced to a documentary crew one by one in customary reality style; however, these are not your normal group of bachelors. They are vampires ranging in age from the few hundred year dandy Viago to the full-on, 8000 year old Nosforatu-esque Peter. The way in which the writer/directors immediately poke fun at the basic vampires stereotypes sets the stage for the ridiculous antics that eventually ensue.
After the initial introductions, we learn that while there are certainly problems unique to their kind-like getting into clubs unless expressly invited, not being able to primp in a mirror, and luring people home to eat, there are also the mundane day-to-day issues with which we can all relate. Washing the dishes, sweeping the floors, cleaning up after a kill...you get the idea. There is bickering and drama just like in any regular roomie situation.
When a plan to eat a new victim ends up turning the ill-fated guy, Nick, into a vampire instead, the fellas lives are turned upside down as their new charge not only becomes their flat mate, but also insists on bringing his human mate Stu into the fold- not as another new vampire, just a human buddy.
Though unexpectedly the old timers take quite readily to Stu, the egotistical freshly made Nick starts ruffling feathers and begins to alienate his flat mates. From here the story really soars as the gents find themselves confronted with fellow New Zealand blood suckers, a pack of werewolves, and a litany of other undead characters.
What really makes the film work is the incredibly funny an witty performances from the entire cast. Directors Waititi and Clement do double duty as Viago and the medieval torturer Vlad, respectively, and chew up the scenery (pun intended) in every scene. The earnest enthusiasm/romanticism of the type-A Viago contrasted with the brooding of his brutish cohorts makes for some truly genuine laughs throughout the film.
There are also some simple yet ridiculously useful and appropriate effects. While some of the effects are for laughs, there are a few instances that really do help the film stay true to the horror genre providing some seriously good creep-outs.
I cannot recommend WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS enough you guys. I'm not sure about stateside distribution, but I implore you to seek it out. You can thank me later.
Until next time,
Aka "Annette Kellerman"