Taika Waititi finally got a chance to direct a box office smash when he helmed Marvel’s Thor Ragnorok. And while that was one of the best Marvel Movies, it still may be Taika’s worst movie. Taika’s prior work was simply fantastic. He created the heartwarming and funny boy and the fantastic Hunt for the Wilderpeople But my favorite movie from him, is What We Do In The Shadows.
What We Do In The Shadows is a Mockumentary. For those who do not know what a mockumentary is, it is when a movie or tv show, presents itself as a documentary, but is in fact, a satire of the format. Othe examples include TV Shows like The Office and Parks and Rec, or a movie like Borat.
It follows a group of vampires, from various backgrounds and periods, who live as roommates in New Zealand. The mockumentary format allows the movie to get by without really having a plot. That is not to say nothing happens in the movie, but it feels more like an extended episode of a running tv show than it does a movie. Usually, this is something that would bother me, but it works so well in this movie, because of how great the humor is, and how great the characters are.
They deal with various issues throughout the film. There is a subplot about a rival gang of werewolves who they squabble with. They try to help a new vampire adjust to life as a vampire, while he helps them adjust to 21st-century life since they are all hundreds of years old and clueless to the modern world. Each character has their own side journey. Their own issue that serves to both provide moments of humor, but also to tell the story.
One thing that impresses me about the movie, is that it looks like a Mockumentary. It seems obvious to do so, but a lot of movies cheat the formula and make a movie that looks like it was shot in a studio. While it does make it look better, ruins the effect the movie is going for. This also happens in found footage movies all the time. Ther is a movie called Megan is Missing, that is sold as a found footage movie, even though everything looks like it was filmed on a steady cam, in a studio. But Taika kept up the ruse that it is supposed to look like a documentary. The filmmaking is still great, but he achieved that without seeling out the format.
The movie is very funny, but it is a reserved humor. It does not fall into the pitfalls many modern comedies do, where the movie suffers to deliver the joke. So many comedies are just set u, and then the punchline. But Taika is a good enough writer where the jokes can flow through the story, and never brings the movie to a halt to get a laugh.
Because the thing is, comedies are still movies, and they should still act like movies. The best comedies can stand alone even if you take the humor out, as something that is still a good movie. Edgar Wright movies are like this, and so are Taika Waititi movies. Take note Judd Apatow.
Even if one finds none of the jokes in this movie funny, they can still admire the writing and the filmmaking. Take this following scene as an example.
I happen to think the scene is hilarious, but comedy is subjective. But there is so much more to this scene than just the humor. Despite being limited by the format, the camera work is still great. I am not sure if it was actually all one shot, or just cheated to look like it, but either way, the chase scene is impressive. There is so much going on, but it is still easy to follow.
What We Do In The Shadows is a fantastic movie, and one of my favorite in the Mockumentary style. It is the reason I was so excited when I heard Taika was getting a chance at a Marvel movie, and why I was not surprised when that marvel movie ended up being one of my favorites. I cannot wait to see what Taika gives us next, but I am sure it will be good.