While one movie of recent, Dracula 2000, tried to expand vampires to the slasher genre, another movie has taken vampires in another direction, to a more realistic and extremely clever climate. This film is Shadow of the Vampire, which fictionalizes the creation of the silent film classic Nosferatu, stating that the vampire in the film was really a vampire.
Shadow of the Vampire is more of an actors' film then anything else, for obvious reasons that will be stated later. John Malkovich, who was last seen in the extremely odd Being John Malkovich, stars as F.W. Murnau, the German director who created Nosferatu. What we see in the movie and in Malkovich's interpretation of the character is an obsessed madness to making the perfect vampire movie. While he won't garner any awards, his performance is noteworthy. It is Willem Dafoe who steals the show. Covered with "makeup" from beginning to end Dafoe looks just like the original, and he acts the original. It is with him and his portrayal of Nosferatu that we get some of the best lines and the best comedy. While Dafoe speaks the part, it is his silent actions that really bring forth the entertainment; some of his expressions are just classic.
The movie as a whole is mildly entertaining, but nothing that I would watch more than once. Shadow of the Vampire moves along at a reasonable pace but hits some slow parts here and there. Some people wondering if they should see this film or not are probably wondering what its genre is; in my opinion, it is neither comedy, horror, drama, or thriller, but more of an indescribable blend of all of those. The movie has enough comedy (and its whole premise is comedic) to tide the audience over, but not enough to be considered a true comedy. It does have some darker moments in it but nothing that could even come close to being horrific, and the only real drama we see is through the black and white cameras. At points the picture is a little thrilling but just barely. Let's just say that Shadow of the Vampire is a new take on vampires that should be watched by all enthusiasts.
But they shouldn't expect too much. While the film has nothing really wrong about it, it is just slow. Even coming under an hour and a half, it still seems to drag on, although the ending is a little intense. The film also takes a little while to get started, represented by the extremely long and drawn out opening credits reel, which made me laugh because it was so damned boring. The stupid thing went on forever!
I liked how the film blends black and white Nosferatu footage (most of which, I presume, was remade to accommodate the new actors) with the current, colored story, while all the time still holding on to a very classic film style. The movie does sort of look like Nosferatu, looking back on it, even though it is in color.
I do have to wonder, though, how the vampire's reflection does not show in the mirror yet Murnau is still able to film him. Oh well.
Shadow of the Vampire is a mildly entertaining film that only suffers from being a little too subtle for its own good. If it kept the pace moving a little faster it would be a great film.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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