New Zealand

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Everyday Vampires

Published March 22, 2015 by vfdpixie

 

WWDITS

What We Do in the Shadows (2014, 1 hr, 26 mins)

 

What We Do in the Shadows.  Sounds really ominous, mysterious and a little intimidating, but it’s the title of a vampire “mockumentary” that was a favourite at film festivals last year, and probably one of the funniest horror-comedies I’ve seen in a long time.

A documentary crew follows the everyday lives of four vampires in Wellington, New Zealand.  The unofficial den vampire, “dandy” Viago (Taika Waititi), moderates, mediates and civilizes the others, perhaps to bring an understanding of their kind.  Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) and Vladislav (Jermaine Clement) are rougher than Viago; with Deacon who is all about rebellion, knitting and being sexy, and Vladislav, described as a “pervert”, who is in love with torture.  There is also the loner Petyr (Ben Fransham), who is probably better known as Nosferatu, lurking in the basement and barely controllable, but a flatmate all the same.  We are introduced to the challenges of vampires living in the modern age, with disgruntled familiars, clubbing, chores, wardrobe, victims and the perils of blood-stained furniture.  When fledgling vampire Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer) ignores the age-old vampire code, things get messy and dangerous for the undead roomies.  Add a pack of rival werewolves, an ancient grudge, and an unholy masquerade, and you have the recipe for bloody and hilarious mayhem.

I’ve said before that I dislike horror comedies because they usually end up being stupid instead of silly, but the folks from Down Under have nailed it again.  I don’t know if it’s because of their geographical positioning that gives them such a hilarious view of the world, but whatever it is, it works.  Jermaine Clement is a multi-talented performer born and bred in New Zealand that is fast becoming a familiar name in North America.  Most would know him from his show Flight of the Concords, a great comedy series about a musical duo from New Zealand trying to make it in America.  He was also in Men in Black 3 as Boris the Animal and, in my opinion, stole the show.  His fellow Kiwi Taika Waititi has a number of director credits under his belt such as The Inbetweeners and Boy, as well as being a seasoned actor.  Here, the two friends since college have written and directed a gem of an indie film, brought over to North America with funds raised from a Kickstarter campaign.

The cast’s comedic timing, honed by years of improv, smoothed over a couple of drawn out scenes, such as Deacon consoling Nick after a loss, that could have stilted the pacing.  The fact that they were also friends outside the set conveyed an ease with the characters that made the flatmates’ relationships believable.  For a low-budget film, the makeup was also well done.  Petyr clearly wore the most special effects makeup, and there was a good balance of tongue-in-cheek and terror with his character, and the practical effects were extremely practical but they worked.  Old-school rotating room techniques and wire work gave us plenty of vampire fights and tom foolery to laugh at.

It’s nice to have an iconic horror villain like the vampire come from left field once in a while, and What We Do in the Shadows goes above and beyond to tickle even the sourest funny bone.  If and when it comes out on DVD, I will definitely be adding this to my collection!

*If you live in the Toronto area, it is still playing at the following theatres:

http://www.cinemaclock.ca/showtimes/ont/Toronto/49958/What_We_Do_in_the_Shadows.html

 

Housebound TADFF 2014

Published October 23, 2014 by vfdpixie

housebound

Housebound (2014, 1hr 47 mins)

Housebound, this year’s TADFF opener from New Zealand, didn’t initially catch my attention when I was compiling my list for the festival because I am usually wary of horror comedies, but this time, I have to agree with all the hoopla.  This Kiwi kicker takes you on a rip-roaring comedy of horrific errors with heart.

Kylie (Morgana O’Reilly) is a petty criminal, and after her last botched robbery attempt, she is sentenced to house arrest in her childhood home to benefit from some so-called stability with her nutter of a mother Miriam (Rima Te Wiata) and mostly mute step dad Graeme (Ross Harper).  She is surly, resentful and really difficult to be around.  Her mother believes their house is haunted, and of course Kylie scoffs at this until she experiences some strange occurrences herself.  With the help of her eager security officer and amateur parapsychology investigator Amos (Glen-Paul Waru), they stumble upon a many layered onion of mayhem that leaves you in stitches.

Housebound was a great vehicle to showcase some brilliant talent from Down Under. O’Reilly, who is apparently a seasoned T.V. actor and comedian, was incredible as the acerbic and basically awful Kylie who hid behind her meanness to protect the fragile girl inside.  Waru played the perfect straight-man foil to Kylie, providing us with rapid-fire one-liners that elicited many a belly laugh, and Te Wiata nailed it as her loopy mother that sweetened the deal with her kooky interpretations of the mysterious goings-on.  And last but not least, I have to mention the fantastic house itself. The design team did a great job of creating an aging childhood house of horrors seen through the eyes of an adult, like old school paintings, cramped bedrooms, a gross basement and creepy toys that were once beloved playthings.

Director Gerard Johnstone mastered the film’s roller coaster pace, keeping you on the edge of your seat until the last few minutes, and the writing was so clever and engaging that I immediately wanted to see more from this man, and hopefully soon.  At the screening, we learned that we almost didn’t have the privilege of seeing this indie horror gem.  There was apparently an issue with distribution, but at the 11th hour, Anchor Bay and Raven Banner, two champions of indie horror films picked it up, so do yourself a favour and go see it when it comes out.  You won’t be sorry!

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