What We Do in the Shadows (2014)


What We Do in the Shadows (2014)
Directed by: Taika Waititi, Jermaine Clement

When Taika Waititi and frequent collaborator Jermaine Clement released the film Eagle vs Shark, they struck out into the world with a comedy charm that was subtle, refreshing and completely unlike the saturated Hollywood fare. Taika’s style is that of heart and deadpan comedy. A tragic-sweetness that carries from Eagle vs Shark to What We Do in the Shadows. The premise of the film is a novelty. Four vampire house-mates and a documentary film crew. We follow these characters in the run-up to the undead social event of the year. The Unholy Masquerade. Each of the vampires is representative of a specific time in vampire history. Viago is the classic, Bela Lugosi’s Dracula of the group.  Vladislav sits more in the style of Bram Stoker. Deacon is evocative of the 80’s Lost Boys. And Petyr is the silent (a nice throwback to the films that birthed his character) Nosferatu. Later they add Nick to the group, a contemporary vampire who walks through the city streets shouting “I am Twilight!” The comedy is punchy and sharp. On the subject of why vampires prefer to drink the blood of virgins, Vladislav says “Think of it like this. If you are going to eat a sandwich, you would just enjoy it more if you knew no one had fucked it.” All these subtle plays on the nature of being a vampire in the real world build into a funny film. To repeat them en masse here would diminish their potency. What We Do in the Shadows is a film that is worth a watch. Maybe even a re-watch. Especially for those who are fans of the collaborators previous works (Flight of the Conchords!).

It Follows (2014)
May 19, 2015, 9:10 am
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It Follows
Directed by: 
David Robert Mitchell

How has a film about a sex-ghost been so well received?

The premise of It Follows sounds so… dumb. It’s a premise built on dream logic. To put it in words is selling it short. A film about a relentless walking ghost, slow, but persistent, always walking. Wherever you go, it follows. You can’t kill it, and running only buys you some time to breathe. It is always in pursuit. And when it catches you, you die.

The only way to end the nightmare is to pass it on to someone else like an STD, through sex. Get some strange and it’s their problem now.

It’s hard not to find an allegorical message about coming-of-age teens and the long-term consequences of rampant fucking. In reality though, this is not an important part of the film. What is important is creeping you the fuck out.

There are no cheap shocks in It Follows. Ominous dread builds through long, drawn out camera work and the knowledge that somewhere out there, ‘it’ is following. There are no surprises because all the while you know what is coming. And that is the most terrifying.

There is a scene where the main character jumps in a car and drives with her friends to the coast for respite. The audience gets a brief glimpse of normality. Then, while the main character relaxes on a deck chair, on a beach with her friends, we see it. It emerges from the bushes behind her, slow moving, we see it coming. For so long you see it coming. The tension is in your desperate want for the character to turn around and see it too.

There is a cinematic quality to the film that is reminiscent of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive. Part of the credit for this goes to the soft-haunt-neon-synth ambient soundtrack, but the rest of the credit must go to cinematographer Mike Gioulakis.

It Follows is about as perfect a horror film as there is. And that’s because it is subtle, and it indulges itself the time to pull you in. Because it cares about you as a viewer. It doesn’t want you to shock you. It wants to terrify you.

Suspiria (1977)
May 18, 2015, 11:03 am
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Suspiria (1977)
Directed by: Dario Argento

Suspiria is an oppressive blend of light, colour, shape and sound. It is an atmosphere that doesn’t let you breathe until the film closes. In the moments where it could slip into the realm of cheap B-Movie horror, it instead becomes art. It isn’t the strength of the actors or the plot that will keep you gripped to the screen. The plot is absurd fantasy, as contrived as you would expect from a horror film. There is only a certain amount of willingness to believe in the absurd. Which is why the best horror is the best storytelling. It invests you so deep in something bizarre. Suspiria instead has something else. It has a style unlike anything you have seen before or since. The lighting and set design is unreal; it is bursting. The set pieces are vast, jagged, cutting modern gothic. The soundtrack is a sour wash of melody that is overwhelming in the film’s quietest moments. The thing about the film’s plot, though. It could let the film down. The acting could let the film down. Some dated blood effects could let the film down. But it’s hard to give the film a hard time about those things when they seem so small in the film’s grand scale.