Cinema Enigmatico Blog #1 – Australian Double Feature

Greetings all! Welcome to the first installment of my review blog, Cinema Enigmatico. I am Re-Gor, and I will be presenting to you reviews of little known films that you may or may not have heard of! I scour the DVD sections of second hand stores and internet sites to find the most obscure, the most bizarre, and often the most fun films! You never know what I might find, so sit back and enjoy what you’ve been missing out on! The review column title is Italian for “Enigmatic Cinema” or “Obscure Movies”. Ordinarily, I try to go into a movie knowing as little about it as possible, to achieve maximum enjoyment. No expectations = no disappointment. So, in my reviews I will try to only give away a little bit of the story…just enough to entice you to seek it out, if I feel it’s worth watching. If it stinks, I may give away most of the story.

Today, I’ve got a New Zealand double Feature. While these films are rather popular in their native country, they are not very well known here, but worth a look. What We Do in the Shadows (2014) and Housebound (2014) 

What We Do In the Shadows (2014) – A mockumentary that spoofs “Big Brother”-style reality shows, What We Do in the Shadows concerns four vampires that live together in a flat in Wellington, New Zealand, and the hilarious modern-day problems that they encounter. This movie is a surprise on so many levels, and not what you’d expect. You’ve got Viago the foppish 18th century vampire, Vladislav the cool Dracula-type, Deacon the more modern vampire who thinks he’s sexier than he is, and Petyr the Nosferatu vampire who is so old he simply cannot be expected to attend the weekly apartment meetings. This story manages to lampoon many different cinematic vampires down through history, while also telling a fun fish-out-of-water story as they try to adapt to modern life.

There are NO sparkly vampires here; these guys play by the old-school, tried and true vampire rules: they cast no reflection, must feed on human blood to survive, are afraid of crucifixes, must be invited in to places, and can be killed by sunlight. In the same vein (pun firmly intended) as Monty Python, while most comedy concerns ordinary people in extraordinary situations, these are extraordinary people in ordinary situations, and hilarity ensues.

One great scene that you could almost miss if you’re not paying attention, is the gang out for an evening looking for victims decide to go clubbing, but they must convince the bouncers to invite them in or they can’t enter the club.This dry sense of NZ humor is prevalent throughout the entire film, which is adeptly written and directed by the co-stars, Jermaine Clement and Taika Waititi who play Vladislav and Viago respectively. Both are known for their comedy chops, Jermaine most notable for the series Flight of the Conchords about two New Zealand musicians who head to New York to seek their fortune. I have not seen this series, but when I mentioned the film to someone recently, they knew exactly what I was talking about and kept raving about Flight of the Conchords.

Deacon has his own ghoul, a lady named Jackie, who is hoping to cash in on her servitude to him by getting the eternal life she was promised. But, every time she inquires he gets nervous and uses his “mind whammy” on her to make her go away. Viago has difficulty extracting blood from his victims, and Petyr is so far removed from humanity that it makes living in a city even more uncomfortable. Lots of cool vampire gags abound, and things get really uncomfortable for the gang when another vampire tries to join their ranks and allow a human friend to tag along with them. This makes it very difficult for those who feed on human blood to contain themselves around this person! This film is a gem and should really be sought out by vampire fans, comedy fans, and fans of just good independent cinema that manages to use it’s budget well. All of the money is on the screen, and all of the talent is in the writing and acting! Check it out if you can!

(Update: Taika Waititi is directing the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok, Due out November 2017!)

Housebound (2014)  This is another film that I had only heard recommended by someone on a podcast. I knew almost nothing about the film going in, and thoroughly enjoyed it! It stars Morgana O’Reilly as Kylie Bucknell, a young lady prone to getting into trouble with the law. As the film opens, she is invovled in a minor heist that goes horribly wrong and is nabbed by the police. Her sentence is to be houesbound at her mother’s home, with an ankle bracelet that will alert the authorities if she goes beyond a certain distance from her house.As she approaches the house, we can see the trepidation in her eyes; clearly she doesn’t have a very good relationship with her mother, and as we learn she’s got a non-existent relationship with her mother’s boyfriend, Graeme.

She is escorted by her probation officer, Amos, and the parameters are quickly set-up for Kylie’s home imprisonment. Mom is played perfectly by Rima Te Wiata, as a suburban mom of a troubled child who is more interested in gossip and can’t seem to ever stop talking, much to Kylie’s chagrin. O’Reilly embodies the role of a troubled young woman perfectly: she’s easily irritated by her mother and Graeme, could care less about anybody other than herself, and is so rooted in her “real world” problems that she doesn’t really think much about things beyond our ken.

When she accidentally overhears her mother calling in to a paranormal radio show, she’s just further irritated by the world she is stuck in. That is…until she starts to hear weird things in the house! Kylie also has to have regular meetings with her social worker, Dennis, whom she loathes from the moment she meets him. From scary neighbors to the lackadaisical police, we’ve stumbled into an interesting, yet very familiar world here, and it keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout the film.

I don’t want to say too much further about this movie except that it takes unexpected turns  from here and is not what you’d expect. There were many moments where I audibly announced, “That’s cool!” Many little touches to the film make this one stand out from the crowd. While there are a couple of moments where you can predict what’s going to happen next, it’s only because that would be the most logical thing to happen at that moment, and speaks well to the writing and the pacing of the story. Director Gerard Johnstone only has a few TV Series under his belt, but if Housebound is any example of his theatrical directing chops, I’d say he’s got a bright career ahead of him!

I believe that both of these films have been available on Netflix, so do what you can to check them out! Both are worth a look!