10/26/13

SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE - REVIEW


Here's a weird little movie you might have missed.

Following German film director F. W. Murnau and his crew as they set out to make the iconic classic Nosferatu, Shadow Of The Vampire suggests that actor Max Schreck, who played the main role in the film, might have been a real vampire. Which, as you can imagine, would have made for a bizarre shoot to say the least. We follow the making of the film as crew members start going missing mysteriously and an overall sense of terror starts taking over the entire production. It's a genius premise and the film lives up to it. Luckily, it never takes itself too seriously, always keeping a nicely dark sense of humour around to lighten things up a bit. John Malkovitch is perfect as Murnau, a man so obsessed with putting together this unique film that he is willing to turn a blind eye to Schreck's vampiric nature and even bargain with him. A virtually unrecognisable Willem Dafoe plays the role of Schreck and evokes not only Schreck's depiction of the vampire but Klaus Kinski's as well, while adding his own unique blend of strange. The rest of the cast is also spot-on and includes the likes of Eddie Izzard, Udo Kier and Cary Elwes.

Many things make this movie a must-see: the clever set-up, the stylishly grim cinematography, Dafoe's other-worldly performance, the likeable cast and the fact it's a pretty funny flick. Shadow Of The Vampire manages to not only be a good vampire film but a good comedy and still retain an overall gloomy atmosphere. There aren't many movies like this one out there and I really wish that more biopics these days would take a page out of this movie's book and apply some imagination and surrealism to telling their subject's stories. Like Ed Wood did, or even Gainsbourg. It's never enough to just make a film about what happened at some point in time, there always needs to be something extra in there, a hook. Now, of course Shadow Of The Vampire is hardly a biopic or an accurate depiction of the making of a classic film but it touches upon both subgenres while telling a fresh, completely original story and capturing how random and scary filmmaking can be.

I would definitely recommend Shadow Of The Vampire. It's a weird movie, for sure, and as such it probably won't appeal to everyone but if the premise sounds like fun to you, you won't be disappointed. It's a shame this movie isn't more well known but I think it deserves its cult status. If you get a chance: do check it out.

An odd, little gem.

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