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Vampire mockumentary Shadows bites off too much

IFE Film review logo bannerAsk any passenger what is their favorite IFE genre and you’ll get a dozen different answers. Some swear by comedies, for others it’s big, mushy melodramas or loud, pyrotechnic-driven action flicks and good/bad Sci-Fi. But whichever genre you prefer to watch at 30,000 feet, there is one universal truth that applies to almost all inflight entertainment. And that is that some movies just play better on an airplane than they do on the ground.

Perhaps whatever remnants are left of the “romance of travel” can still cast a giddy glow over  your trip – including that forgettable romantic comedy you just devoured on your seatback IFE screen! – or maybe it’s the countless distractions in the cabin blinding us somehow to a film’s gaping plot holes and cheesy dialog. Or maybe it all just boils down to the simple fact that many of us doze off in our seats while watching, miss all the bad parts, and awake with warm, fuzzy memories of a half-finished cinematic masterpiece. That never was.

Whatever the reasoning behind it, some seasoned travelers will agree that there are good movies and good inflight movies. And though it pains me to admit this – especially since the first two thirds of the film are choke-on-your-inflight-peanuts hilarious – the clever, but wildly uneven vampire-horror mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows is a smashingly good example of the latter.

Set in modern-day Wellington, New Zealand, Shadows follows the comic misadventures of a quartet of centuries-old vampires (played to comic perfection by Taika Waititi, Jonny Brugh, Ben Fransham, and Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement) sharing a suburban flat with a newly-turned recruit named Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer).

Trailed by a camera crew, the film depicts the wryly mundane existence of the undead flatmates as they squabble over whose turn it is to do the dishes, mail the rent check or clean the blood off the ceiling in the bathroom. And if that sounds like sublimely ridiculous comedy gold, it is. Some of the scenes in Shadows are already destined to be classics, particularly the ongoing bit about the awestruck vampires watching clips of a sunrise on YouTube. And any time the two human members of the ensemble – Brugh’s long-suffering “servant” Jackie (Jackie Van Been) and Nick’s chill, soft-spoken bestie Stu (Stu Rutherford) – are onscreen, the laughs fly faster than the film’s dueling vampire bats at sundown. For while the eternally young gang of four are all fantastically funny, the real heart and offbeat humor of the film bleeds through in Van Been and Rutherford’s scenes as outsiders observing the vamp insanity from a distance.


And though some hardcore fans are already calling Shadows (which was co-written and co-directed by Clement and Waititi) the second coming of Monty Python, in truth the film plays more like an extended Saturday Night Live skit that runs a wee bit longer than it should have. All of which, as I mentioned above, makes Shadows a perfect inflight film.

Seriously, had I stopped watching somewhere before the dreadfully unfunny third act I would be writing a much different review right now. Unfortunately, I stayed awake for the entire film and had to watch all the promise and freshness of the first two acts drain from the film like blood from one of the film’s virgin victims. Not a pretty sight.

So, my advice is to savor Shadows’ first hour for what it is — easily the funniest indie-fueled mockumentary in a decade! — and then take a nice little snooze when the gents head to the Unholy Masquerade Ball in act three. Trust me, all the really juicy stuff is front-loaded in this one, you won’t miss a thing!

Now playing on select Delta and Air New Zealand flights worldwide, What We Do In The Shadows is also available via streaming at Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, VUDU and iTunes.