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Shadow of the Vampire – 7

Director – E. Elias Merhige

Cast – Willem Dafoe, John Malkovich, Udo Kier,Cary Elwes, Catherine McCormack, Eddie Izzard, Ronan Vibert

Release Year – 2000

Reviewed by John of the Dead

Shadow of the Vampire is a film I would hear about every now and then but I never made an effort to give it a watch. It wasn’t until it became available on Netflix’s streaming service that I decided to give it a go. With a cast consisting of Willem Dafoe and John Malcovich I was intrigued to see how this would turn out, and I left pleased with what I saw. A bit light on the horror, Shadow of the Vampire is still a worthy horror film thanks to an engaging story stemming from one of the genre’s earliest films.

Director E.W.Murnau (Malkovich) is on a mission to create a vampire film that will leave him immortalized in horror lore. This vampire film will be known as…Nosferatu. Taking no chances bothering with anyone of lesser talent, Murnau hires the mysterious Max Shreck to portray the evil count Orlock. To the crew, Shreck is the prime example of a method actor. He will only appear at night, in character, and in full make-up. Little does the crew know, he is hardly a method actor. In fact, he isn’t even acting, and Murnau’s bargain with him will be costly.

I really dug this story because of Nosferatu’s significance in establishing the horror genre. The behind-the-scenes element made this story an engaging one that film buffs should be enveloped in. We mostly follow director Murnau as he tries to piece together his pinnacle film. He strikes gold when he brings forth the “actor” he hired to play Orlock, Max Shreck. Shreck’s “method actor” persona sounds like a gimmick to keep him within character, but really it is to keep him from killing everyone around him. Murnau tooka big risk hiring a real life vampire to portray the vampire in his film, but he is sure it will pay off. Shreck proves to be more of a hassle than Murnau expected, as he loses essential personnel to the old vamp who is becoming increasingly comfortable with doing whatever he wants.

The horror stems from the actions of Shreck, which include feasting on the unsuspecting crew and his persistent demands for “payment” for his work. To be honest, the horror IS there but it isn’t heavy. The horror is equally mixed with the drama caused by the Count and the effect it has on the shoot and director. There is a good amount of horror that does not involve the kills committed by Shreck, but merely his actions. He was written so simple yet so creepy, and much respect goes to writer Steven Katz for that.

The casting of Malkovich and Dafoe was a great move in making this a success. While they boths ell their roles it is Dafoe who steals the show. His Oscar-nominated performance is incredible and I applaud director E. Elias Merhige for executing Dafoe to perfection. He look alone is haunting, but his simple mannerisms were creepy and highly effective. I was also pleased to see actor Udo Kier in the film, portraying the film’s producer Albin Grau. Both he, Malkovich, and Cary Ewles did well in their roles, which were of course overshadowed by Dafoe. While Merhige did well executing Shreck he also succeeded in his direction of the kills. They came off in the same vein as those seen in the original 1922 classic, and I was glad that he and the writer went this route instead of modernizing the kill scenes. Because of this you should not expect much in gore, but really, it would be silly expect gore in a film associated with a classic vampire tale.

Overall, Shadow of the Vampire is a good film with an interesting storyline thanks to its association with a horror classic. Willem Dafoe’s performance alone is enough to warrant a viewing, and it should remain one of the greatest in horror history.

Rating: 7/10

…Additional Stills…

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