M.L. Miller here! As I go into the tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Moving on to Year Five of my year-long Retro-Best in Horror I’m recapping the Countdown beginning officially on October 1, 2014 and going through September 30, 2015. I have posted compilation lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around, and even adding a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t! Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!
Released on February 15, 2015. Available On Demand, digital download, and Blu-ray/DVD!
WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS (2014)
Directed by Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi
Written by Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi
Starring Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi, Cori Gonzalez-Macuer, Jonny Brugh, Stu Rutherford, Ben Fransham, Rhys Darby, Jackie van Beek, Elena Stejko, Jason Hoyte, Karen O’Leary, Mike Minogue, Chelsie Preston Crayford, Ian Harcourt, Ethel Robinson, Brad Harding, Yvette Parsons, Madeleine Sami, Frank Habicht, Kura Forrester, Simon Vincent, Cohen Holloway, Duncan Sarkies, Nathan Meister, Tanemahuta Gray
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
The reason why I believe WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS is the best horror film of 2015 is mainly because, more than any other film in this list, I have returned to watch it more times than I can count. It’s not only a fantastic film, but one that incorporates comedy into horror in a genius way. The fact that the spinoff TV show is able to encapsulate what made the original film good and continue the story only enriches everything about WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS, the best horror film released in 2014-2015!
A camera crew was given access into the hidden world of the vampires. The crew were promised not to be harmed and given full access to the nocturnal lives of their undead world. At the beginning of the film, we meet Viago (Taika Waititi), a kind hearted vampire who accepted the invitation of the filmmakers to film this documentary and acts as the den mother to a quartet of vampires all living together under the same roof. Viago introduces up to Vladislav (FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS’ Jemaine Clement) an egotistical vamp who has fallen on hard times since a creature he dubs the Beast harmed him deeply and left him a hollow man, Deacon (Jonny Brugh) a self-proclaimed ladies vamp who is labeled the “badboy” of the group, and Petyr (Ben Fransham) an ancient Nosferatu-esque vamp who is crabby in his old age and hisses at any attempt to invite him to house meetings. The camera crew follows the banal day to day (or more accurately, night to night) happenings in the home as they argue about who does the dishes, the difficulty of getting into clubs without being invited in by the bouncers first, and occasional run-ins with a gang of werewolves lead by FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS’ Murray aka the hilarious Rhys Darby.
Part of the fun with WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS is the fun the cast has with the language which turns out to be a cross between New Zealander and classic Transylvanian dialect. This is a goofy film, not really taking much seriously, but the way it presents everything in a kind of nonsensical and no-fucks-given attitude made every moment hilarious for me. Seeing the vamps swiping from popular culture like LOST BOYS movies and the like make it all the more effective as these vamps are aware that they are in a world where movies about vampires are being made and vampire culture is well known.
The film also has a lot of fun with vampire tropes such as the aforementioned setback of not getting into a club without being invited first and the vamps difficulty maintaining spells of hypnosis according to their current confidence level and state of mind. Again, lines about “you can’t eat the cameraman” are infinitely more funny coming from Jermaine Clement’s monotone voice, so it’s the fact that I loved FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS that helped me love this movie to its very core. Another bit in the film is about the way the vamps treat their human servants, leading them on for years squeezing out as much servitude they can from them with the promise of turning them into vampires. Seeing the cast make excuses why they can’t change their servant Jackie (Jackie van Beek) into a vampire is hilarious as the only reason they are prolonging things is because they are lazy and like it that Jackie does anything they want, which usually means cleaning up after their messes.
The movie also has a lot of fun with effects as the vamps constantly get into arguments and challenge one another by hissing and then launching into the air. It’s something we’ve seen in vampire movies for years, but the fact that these vamps will go into full on hissing mode over unwashed dishes is what elevates things to a level of lunacy. It’s also fun to see the vamps go all out in one scene as Clement’s Vladislav turns into a cat with Jermaine’s face to terrify one of their house guests and Viago stumbles into a lovemaking session with Vladislav acting like Gary Oldman in BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA rolling around with two women on the wall with silk sheets. This film is filled from start to finish with little one notes that never failed in delivery.
But this is not just a collection of one note gags. Each character gets an arc of sorts and comes out the other end of this film a changed person because of it. That’s what elevates this from a SCARY MOVIE-style horror farce to one that feels more like a mockumentary Christopher Guest would make. The level of character here is fantastic and while each character is goofy in their own way, you can’t help but like these weird vamps as they go though life’s ups and downs.
I’d be remiss not to point out Rhys Darby and his crew of werewolves as they are easily one of the most interesting sidebars this film goes on. As in FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS where Bret, Jermaine, and Murray would meet a rival gang on the street as if they are acting out a scene from WEST SIDE STORY, here the vamps keep crossing paths with Rhy Darby’s group of werewolves who seem like they would be equally interesting to follow with a camera crew should this film ever want to have another go at it with a sequel. Darby chastising one of his gang about swearing so much, stating “We’re werewolves, not swearwolves.” remains one of the funniest lines on the film.
I absolutely loved this movie as it both pokes fun at modern culture’s fascination with vampires by having these vamps just as fascinated with it and also takes these characters seriously enough to make me care about them. This type of comedy, which hits you on multiple levels of funny, be it low or highbrow, is hard to find and while the vamps in WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS is often downright hilarious, I never felt like it was making fun of the horror genre or coming from a place where respect wasn’t given to vampire lore. It takes what we all know about vamps and what society has made of the mythology and makes it all too human and real. WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS should be a must see for everyone and while it has a few bits of gore and pitch dark humor, I think even those who don’t like horror films will get into this one.
THE 2014-2015 COUNTDOWN!
#1 – WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS
#2 – RABIES
#3 – PREDESTINATION
#4 – THE CANAL
#5 – THE BABADOOK
#6 – CREEP
#7 – LATE PHASES
#7.5 – WER
#8 – IT FOLLOWS
#9 – SPRING
#10 – EAT
#11 – GOODNIGHT MOMMY
#12 – LOST SOUL: THE DOOMED JOURNEY OF RICHARD STANLEY’S ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU
#13 – STARRY EYES
#14 – THE BOY
#15 – THE TAKING OF DEBORAH LOGAN
#16 – THE HOUSE AT THE END OF TIME
#17 – THE STRANGE COLOR OF YOUR BODY’S TEARS
#18 – CUB
#19 – POD
#20 – BACKCOUNTRY
#21 – CLOSER TO GOD
#22 – WE ARE STILL HERE
#23 – A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT
#24 – WYRMWOOD: ROAD OF THE DEAD
#25 – THE EDITOR
#26 – DEAD SNOW 2: RED VS DEAD
#27 – PARA ELISA
#28 – THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT
#29 – FROM THE DARK
#30 – EXISTS
#31 – A PLAGUE SO PLEASANT
M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.
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Great film, but c’mon man. Horror? You wouldn’t consider Hotel Transylvania horror would you 🙂
I found the scene where all hell breaks loose quite scary and it’s bloody as hell, focusing on all kinds of horror lore. For me, this was the best. What’s your number one from that year?
I’d probably pick Goodnight Mommy as my favorite, though I also really liked Closer to God, the Boy, the psychological-thriller film Circle. Spring is another one I loved that, like Shadows, had horror elements but was mostly something else, a fantastic romance I wasn’t expecting. Anyways, I’ll be checking out Rabies and From the Dark soon.
I love all, of those picks. Honestly, 2014-2015 was the biggest and best year of horror, if I look back on it. Pretty much every movie from about the 13 spot on could be considered for the top spot. 2015 and 2012 were highpoints in modern horror.