Shadow Of The Vampire

"Good"

Shadow Of The Vampire Review


Part homage to one of cinema's best-known silent films, part winkingly nebulous black comedy, and part old-school horror flick, "Shadow of the Vampire" is a crafty "what if" fictionalization of the making of "Nosferatu," the world's first vampire movie.

The film stars John Malkovich as F.W. Murnau, the classic picture's legendarily obsessive director who is willing to go to any lengths to capture genuine terror from his cast -- even if it means hiring a real vampire to play the lead, promising the undead "actor" the neck of his leading lady when the picture wraps.

Enter Willem Dafoe in a performance of a lifetime as Max Schreck -- the method actor who never appeared to the cast and crew out of character (or out of make-up, or during daylight) the whole time "Nosferatu" was being made on location at a foreboding castle in Bavaria, circa 1922.

But in the mythology of "Shadow," Schreck isn't a method actor at all -- he's a bona fide bloodsucker with whom Murnau cut a diabolical deal for the sake of creating an absurd level of authenticity.

Of course, with a wild card like that dealt into the production, things soon get out of hand. Murnau finds himself losing a battle of wills with the fiendishly thirsty thespian and it isn't long before crew members start turning up dead -- like the cinematographer Murnau was counting on for his movie's ghoulish look.

"Why not the script girl?" harangues the hair-pulling Murnau.

"The script girl?" Schreck snarls with evil glee, eyes darting about in sinister machination, "I'll eat her later!"

Even under mounds of wrinkly, pointy-eared prosthetics that precisely recreate Schreck's "Nosferatu" look, Dafoe is brilliantly uncanny, grotesque and feral -- while also being quite droll -- in a role that began generating Oscar buzz as long ago as the Cannes Film Festival in May.

He's not the sole allure of this movie, however. The script, by TV writer and script doctor Steven Katz, is brimming with clever dialogue and insightful nods to the dawn of modern cinema. Director E. Elias Merhige ("Begotten") inventively draws his audience into this on-set world with, for example, ingenious transitions from behind the scenes, through the iris of the hand-cranked camera, and right into the scenes from "Nosferatu." Deftly photographed and meticulously designed to mimic the atmosphere of a silent film, "Shadow" captures that spirit in magnificent detail.

As icing on the cake, the performances of the entire ensemble cast are thoroughly entertaining. With a subtle sense of humor, Malkovich nails Murnau's erratic, tantrum-prone temperament and complete dedication to his craft, speaking in almost absurdly poetic verse about the art and poetry of film. Cary Elwes is a shot in the arm as the loose cannon cameraman replacement. Cross-dressing comedian Eddie Izzard is perfectly cast as "Nosferatu's" dapper, overacting leading man (the fact that men caked on the makeup for silent films just makes him all the more apropos). And the considerably under-appreciated Catherine McCormack ("Dangerous Beauty," "Land Girls") is spectacular as the spoiled stage actress fated to be sacrificed at the alter of Murnau's artistic vision.

Because it's such wicked fun, the handful of acute flaws that are this movie's albatross become particularly grating and obtrusive. Structurally, "Shadow of the Vampire" is jumpy at best, downright sloppy at worst. For example: One central character just up and disappears 3/4ths of the way through the movie. Was a scene left on the cutting room floor? Did Schreck suck his blood off screen? Hellooo?

But in the tradition of the many recent "what if" movies ("JFK," "Dick," "Shakespeare in Love," and the similarly Hollywood horror-themed "Gods & Monsters"), "Shadow" is entertaining (and often truly eerie) enough to forgive its foibles, even if they are sometimes severe.



Shadow Of The Vampire

Facts and Figures

Run time: 92 mins

In Theaters: Friday 26th January 2001

Box Office USA: $7.5M

Box Office Worldwide: $8.3M

Budget: $8M

Distributed by: Lions Gate Releasing

Production compaines: Saturn Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 81%
Fresh: 110 Rotten: 25

IMDB: 6.9 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: E Elias Merhige

Starring: as F. W. Murnau, as Max Schreck, as Albin Grau, as Fritz Arno Wagner, as Greta Schröder, as Gustav von Wangenhein, Aden Gillett as Henrik Galeen, Nicholas Elliott as Paul, as Wolfgang Müller, Sophie Langevin as Elke, Myriam Muller as Maria, Milos Hlavac as Innkeeper, Marja-Leena Junker as Innkeeper's Wife, Derek Kueter as Reporter 1, as Reporter 2

Also starring:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Hampstead Movie Review

Hampstead Movie Review

Deliberately appealing to older audiences, this undemanding comedy-drama comes with a hint of social relevance...

The Book of Henry Movie Review

The Book of Henry Movie Review

Apparently, this offbeat script had been making the rounds in Hollywood for some 20 years...

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

With this fifth Transformers movie, it seems clear that Michael Bay is still trying to...

Churchill Movie Review

Churchill Movie Review

This drama about the iconic British prime minister tells a darkly personal story set over...

Gifted Movie Review

Gifted Movie Review

This is one of those films that dances right up to the edge of soapy...

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Notorious British filmmaker Nick Broomfield teams up with Austrian music documentary producer Rudi Dolezal to...

The Mummy Movie Review

The Mummy Movie Review

To launch their new Dark Universe franchise, Universal has taken an approach that mixes murky...

Advertisement
My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

Daphne du Maurier's 1951 mystery-romance novel has been adapted for theatre, radio, TV and film,...

Wilson Movie Review

Wilson Movie Review

It's never helpful when a comedy becomes a bit too smug about its own quirkiness....

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

A fictionalised story from the life of Wolfgang Mozart, this lavishly produced period drama is...

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

This British satirical comedy may be a bit of a mess, but since it's based...

Detour Movie Review

Detour Movie Review

This may look like a rather typical American indie thriller, but British filmmaker Christopher Smith...

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Boldly optimistic, this action-packed adventure breathes fresh life into the DC universe with a welcome...

Baywatch Movie Review

Baywatch Movie Review

Clearly, it's a risky proposition adapting a cheesy vintage TV series for the big screen:...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.