: : : Shadow of the Vampire

Story

Clever, engaging, and boosted by the sublime casting of Willem Dafoe as Nosferatu actor Max Schreck, Shadow of the Vampire is a film full of good ideas that are only partially developed. Its premise is ripe with possibilities, but the movie's too slight to register much impact, so you're left to relish its delightful performances and director E. Elias Merhige's affectionately tongue-in-cheek homage to a landmark of German silent cinema. John Malkovich is aptly loony as the eccentric director F.W. Murnau, whose passion in filming the 1922 classic Nosferatu leads to the extreme casting of Schreck as the vampire, a vision of evil who, in this movie's delightfully twisted imagination, actually is a vampire, sucking the blood of cast and crewmembers who've dismissed Schreck as an overzealous method actor.

As these on-set maladies and "accidents" continue, Schreck wields greater control over Murnau, who descends into a kind of obsessive art-for-art's-sake madness until diva costar Greta Schroeder (Catherine McCormack, doing wonderful work) is served up as the actor's ultimate motivation. Merhige and his actors (including Cary Elwes, as intrepid cameraman Fritz Wagner) have great fun with this ghastly escapade, and the humor is kept delicately subtle to balance the movie's artistic aspirations. To that end, Dafoe is just right, his bald pate and gaunt features a perfect match for the mysterious Schreck, his grimace and talon-like fingers suggesting a human vulture on the prowl. Likewise, the re-creation of Nosferatu's expressionist style is both fanciful and brilliantly authentic. Too bad, then, that this movie suffers a mild case of vampiric anemia; if it shared the depth and richness of, say, Ed Wood, this might have been a cult classic for the ages. --Jeff Shannon

DVD Features

  • Color
  • Closed-captioned
  • Widescreen

Cast

John MalkovichFriedrich Wilhelm Murnau
Willem DafoeMax Schreck
Udo KierAlbin Grau
Cary ElwesFritz Arno Wagner
Catherine McCormackGreta Schröder
Eddie IzzardGustav von Wangenhein
Ronan VibertWolfgang Müller

  • Genre: Horror Movies
  • Director: E. Elias Merhige
  • Producer: TriMark
  • Length: 93 minutes
  • Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
  • Theatrical Release
    North AmericaJan 26, 2001
  • Ratings
    North AmericaR
    Europe15
    AustraliaM
  • DVD Release
    North AmericaJun 17, 2003
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