What We Do In The Shadows


Viewed – 02 September 2016  Netflix

A satirical fly-on-the-wall documentary following the day to day activities of a group of flatmates … who just happen to be vampires.  It’s a good idea and one I sat down to with intrigue and curiosity.  An unseen film crew are given the opportunity to follow around these ‘creatures of the night’ as they go about their vampire ways, luring innocent humans to dinner parties only to kill and feed on them, or night clubbing only in clubs they get invited inside of and trying to avoid confrontations with the neighbourhood werewolves.

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This New Zealand effort is cleverly observed, ticking all the vampire mythology boxes and with a group of interesting personalities with each vampire coming from different eras in history, I found myself really getting into this.  The story such as it is doesn’t really have much to it as far as an all that interesting series of situations and we’re basically just watching these creatures squabble, talk about their pasts and do vampire stuff like flying or turning into bats (in a stand out, funny fight scene).  It sits on an uneasy precipice between satire and all-out comedy, and although it leans more towards comedy, its not really that funny despite fairly sharp dialogue and decent performances.  However effects work including some slapstick gore and the aforementioned flying and transforming is done well, even if make-up effects are more miss than hit.

Overall this was a quirky idea that worked mainly down to it’s cast and less down to it’s structure or writing; like the maker’s had a great idea but were not entirely sure what to do with it.  That being said, this is worth seeing basically because it’s an original take on a very familiar subject.

Verdict:  3 /5

Indie Game –The Movie


Viewed – 18 January 2014  Netflix

I had heard good things about this, and let’s face facts the videogame themed documentary isn’t exactly a packed genre.  So it was very interesting to sit down and learn about the struggles and stresses of getting small, independent games made and released.

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Following the stories of (for the most part) two games as they are developed, hyped and eventually released, namely Super Meat Boy and Fez … I really felt for the albeit slightly nerdy game designers as they argued and fell out, in their quest to release a small game and get some sort of credibility for it all.  To anyone aware of what goes into games, especially independent ones this doc sheds little new light, but if like me you only have knowledge of games once they appear on XBOX Live etc, then this is eye-opening.

I would have liked some insight into just how these games are made, how the programmers go about putting their vision together, the coding, the art design, but much of that is glossed over and the focus is all about getting the game out there.  Candid interviews and behind the scenes footage with Phil Fish (Fez), Edmund McMillen (Super Meat Boy) and Jonathan Blow (Braid) amongst others are welcome and I did enjoy my time with these guys, even if I came away still not knowing all that much about game design  

Made me immediately go and purchase Fez though.

Verdict:  3 /5

Room 237


Viewed – 23 October 2013  DVD

It always surprises me that it wasn’t until the late nineties that I first watched and loved Stanley Kubrick’s much acclaimed horror masterpiece The Shining.  I have subsequently watched it several times over the last decade or more and enjoyed it on a very appreciative level – it remains for me the perfect horror movie – both technically and when it comes to foreboding atmosphere.  So a documentary exploring the many hidden meanings supposedly within the movie was very appealing.

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Directed by Rodney Ascher and pieced together from various testimonials by film fanatics, specialists and The Shining fans – this is a fascinating look at a remarkable piece of film making.  Whether or not I agree with some  of the theories presented here (many of which do seem a bit crazy) it makes for interesting viewing, especially if you have a good knowledge of the movie itself.  It made me want to sit down and watch the movie again, but not necessarily to spot all the Native American imagery or vague nods to the holocaust(!) but because its just a damn good piece of entertainment.  I think some of the people talking on this doc have waaay too much time on their hands, but some observations, such as little (deliberate?) mistakes and freaky coincidences are fun to ponder.

As a documentary I think it makes for an interesting 90 minutes, but doesn’t give you a completely new perspective of The Shining, unless you are as anal and obsessive as these guys clearly are … Kubrick faked the moon landing??  Okaaaaay.

Verdict:  3 /5

Tallhotblonde


Viewed – 10 August 2012  Television

Documentaries exploring the dangers of the internet are becoming quite the little sub-genre, what with the acclaimed Catfish last year, and now this, eye-opening true story.  It tells the tragic tale of Brian, a man lured into a web of lies by a woman calling herself Jessie, the tallhotblonde of the title, who over several months, forms a relationship with two men who both work at the same place, eventually causing jealousy and hatred that finally leads to murder.

Directed by Barbara Shroeder, this features candid interviews and disturbing transcripts of online conversations, that certainly drew this viewer in and kept him glued.  As someone who uses the internet, the lure of the freedom the web bestows can be very appealing, but can also be a breeding ground for dishonesty, which in this case turned very bad indeed.  Like Catfish, I found it hard to sympathize with the main protagonists, whose own stupidity and naivety was the cause of much of the trouble.  And although it lacks that film’s gritty, handheld camera style that meant you felt a part of every moment, this still remained shocking in places … even if it had little new to say.

If you don’t already have a bit of knowledge of such dangers, like chatrooms, people pretending to be who they are not, this could paint the ‘net in a rather bad light – but like I have always said, with a bit of common sense, the web can still be safe – just stay away from tallhotblondes, I suppose.

Verdict:  2.5 /5

Catfish


Viewed – 19 February 2012  Television

Oh the horrors of the internet age.  Social Networking has become a major way for many to communicate with friends, family, and to some extent, complete strangers … so much so that relationships can be formed even if you never physically meet up.  It’s a strange and dangerous new world, and one that photographer Yaniv Shulman discovered all too well in late 2007 / early 2008 when he became friends with a family and their art prodigy 8-year-old daughter, Abbie.

This absorbing documentary exposes just how easy it is to get drawn into a friendship with someone you have never met, and how what you are told and what you believe can become something else entirely.  Directors / documentarians Henry Joost & Ariel Shulman have crafted a shocking and at times disturbing portrait of social networking and the caution we all should have whenever speaking to another person online, especially if you don’t really know them.  It’s put together from a wealth of footage shot over the eight month online communication between Yaniv and the mysterious family, and along with some good editing, lots of hand-held camera and good use of Google Earth – this is one documentary I think anyone involved in the likes of Facebook etc should seek out immediately.

I thought some of Yaniv’s actions were kind of reckless, and when you consider how many weirdos and nutters prowl the internet, what he gets up to doesn’t send the best message.  Also the final reveal and what has actually been happening, is portrayed with sympathy, when I felt like shouting at the screen.  Yaniv handles things well towards the end though, but I felt he was almost as guilty as the other person involved for allowing what transpired to go on for as long as it did.  Still this was gripping and thought-provoking, and to some extent, opened my eyes.

Verdict:  4 /5