by The Film Magazine — January 13, 2021
In New Zealand cinema, the “man alone” represents humanity’s dominance over nature. Over the centuries, that dominance comes in the form of expanding urbanization, reducing societal identification with the ethos of a colonial past. What We Do in the Shadows reshapes the “man alone” for 21st century Wellington using vampire cinema and its tradition of intertextuality.
Andrea Bosshard says that the “man alone” is a “… masculine character who must fight his physical environment in order to survive, the man who can turn a piece of number-eight fencing wire into anything – what is now somewhat nostalgically called ‘kiwi ingenuity’- being able to make do, be a jack-of-all-trades, and turn one’s hand to whatever is required.” (98) Allan Cameron notes that “this iconic masculine figure was first clearly defined in John Mulgan’s influential novel Man Alone (1939)” (58n9), and that the “man alone” is “[caught] between these two realms – the landscape and the domestic sphere …” (58). This figure no longer fits into 21st century Wellington, where the domestic sphere has become the landscape, citizens can connect with people around the globe, and survival means making enough money to afford rent, utilities, and groceries.
Vampires – creatures caught between the realms of living and dead – present a natural substitute for the “man alone.” The vampire thrives in seclusion because their strange habits, lack of aging, and homicidal dietary restrictions increase the risk of human discovery (and subsequent persecution). Their seclusion is also an important part of vampire film imagery – Dracula’s isolated Transylvania castle is a vital part of any iteration of his story. What We Do In the Shadows’ lead character Viago even mentions the isolated castle stereotype during an interview and goes on to say it isn’t uncommon for vampires to congregate together in urban spaces because of the difficulties that environment presents.
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