29th Nov2014

What we do on the Big Screen – A Look at Mocumentaries

by Phil Wheat

What-we-Shadows-cast

Ever wondered about the inner workings of a vampire’s mind? Do you spend your spare time thinking about how a group of flat-sharing vampires divide up the household chores, or how they decide what to wear for a night on the town? Yeah, so do we. All these musings and many more are answered in Jemaine Clement and Taika Waitit’s hilarious mockumentary, What We Do In the Shadows. To celebrate the release of the Flight of the Conchords writers’ latest project, we take a look at the other best mockumentaries to hit the silver screen.

This is Spinal Tap (1984)

What many consider the ultimate mockumentary, this cult classic has topped many lists since the 80’s. Most of the dialogue was ad-libbed and the actors were accredited as writers as well because of this. One of the best rock movie quotes, “turn it up to 11”, comes from this masterpiece. It is such a classic that it was selected for preservation by the United States National Film Registry. Hands down, or up, this is one of the best mockumentaries of all time.

Best In Show (2000)

With many great comedic names, this film about insane dog parents is a laugh out loud mockumentary about how crazy people are over competitions. Many of the lines were ad-libbed, like Guest’s other films, (This is Spinal Tap) and most of the actors had worked with Guest before. This film won countless awards for how hilarious it is. What is funnier than people going overboard crazy about their dogs?

Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999)

Well known as Amy Adams film debut, this cult film looks at American beauty pageants and all their ‘glory’. The plot focused on a small town in Minnesota and the girls there who hope to win a beauty pageant to escape the traps of small town living. The film shows how powerful and funny revenge can be. Also, how sometimes everything comes down to hilariously dumb luck.

Borat (2006)

Better known as a “shockumentary”, this film created one of the most iconic characters in comedy. Starring Sacha Baron Cohen and countless unsuspecting Americans, the film looks at the awkwardness of a foreigner adjusting to American life. Cohen pushes boundaries and uses jokes that many find obscene, but most find hilarious. However, Cohen also received many lawsuits from the unsuspecting Americans who took part in the film and did not realise that it was a mockumentary. Controversy or not the film is still one of the most hilarious mockumentaries ever.

A Mighty Wind (2003)

Very different from Guest’s normal mockumentaries, this film looks at the lives of various folk artists as they come together to perform in a major folk reunion concert. It might not be as laugh out loud funny as Guest’s other films, but it does have a sense of humour all of its own. Many of the actors Guest used in other films, like Harry Shearer and Michael McKean from This is Spinal Tap, appear and bring their usual charm and wit to make a great film.

The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash (1978)

This film was meant as a mockumentary of the pop group, The Rutles, who rose to pop stardom in the 60s, much like the infamous Beetles. This film covers all the madness pop stars experience from female fans, to the girls they fall in love with and the people they used to know. Originally made for TV this movie has been released several times over the years and has earned the title of a true cult classic.

Incident at Loch Ness (2004)

This mockumentary reveals the truth about Loch Ness, which is, making a film about people making a film trying to prove Nessie exists, is hilarious. The hilarity of the film comes from how hard the ‘scientists’ try to convince everyone that Nessie exists and the film is a very serious piece about proving her existence. Filled with jumps that poke fun at horror movies, this mockumentary transforms a scary myth into one of the biggest jokes around.

Zelig (1983)

Starring Woody Allen and Mia Farrow, this mockumentary about a human chameleon in the 1920’s was also written and directed by Allen. It merges the past and the present with quick wit and historical charm. One cannot help but to be intrigued by Zelig, his condition, and the hilarity of people who try to figure it out. Zelig can blend in so well, it is easy to use the roaring twenties as a backdrop to this witty piece from Allen.
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Ready to see what it is like to live like a vampire? What We Do In the Shadows is in cinemas now; and check out Dan’s review here

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