Review 297: Shadow of the Vampire (2000)
After watching Nosferatu, I was very interested in watching Shadow of the Vampire. I remember seeing part of it on a cable channel several years ago. The film takes a look at the making of a classic vampire film with an alternate reality. There were some definite highlights in this film, but there were some elements that didn’t really work for me. I give Shadow of the Vampire the Decent Watch rating.
Director Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau (John Malkovich) is in the process of filming Nosferatu in 1922. However, his vampire, Max Schreck (Willem Dafoe), is taking the role a bit more serious than other actors approach to a performance. It’s not long after filming begins that members start becoming sick and rumors start to arise.
Willem Dafoe, Eddie Izzard, and Catherine McCormack were my favorite aspects of the film. I’ve been a fan of Izzard for a long time and he played Gustav von Wangenheim, who he so well it seemed like they used actual clips. McCormack also does fantastic as Greta and her reenactments of the scenes from Nosferatu were perfect. Max Schreck’s Count Orlok is considered one of the best onscreen vampires ever. Dafoe’s portrayal of him in both the reenactments and the moments off-screen were pretty incredible. He is horrifying and even manages to demonstrate a lot of the same creepy mannerisms. It’s hard mimic such an iconic performance and still add something to it, but Dafoe succeeded.
The weakest link for me was Malkovich. I don’t always enjoy him anyways, but there are moments where it seems like he is just going through the motions. His accent comes and goes throughout the film. There are moments where he just seems to be reading the script aloud and not bothering acting. However, when he plays the role of the crazed director he does seem to channel something. At the same time, some of the vocal directions he gives sounds like he’s just saying the craziest thing he can think of. The opening moment where he is filming Greta playing with her pet cat is a great example. He uses a double entendre to really show how creepy he can be.
Shadow of the Vampire utilizes some old school looking film elements to add to its recreation
There are some really great film aspects though in this movie. While I am only starting to learn about the older films, it seems that their film making techniques are accurate. I’ve become fond of films that dramatize the filmmaking process. Shadow of the Vampire uses a cool transitional element from the film we are watching to the film they are making. Colors shift to grays and the iris closes to recreate the look of the original film. It’s a great visual element that makes this film more interesting.
There is a lot of cool elements in this film, but it’s not one I need to see again. I’m not sure I want to watch Malkovich again going back and forth on whether to care about this film or not. Nonetheless, Dafoe’s performance should be seen as it’s extremely impressive. Plus, seeing Eddie Izzard getting work is always a joy for me. I loved his stand-up and he is usually good in roles he gets. So, check it out like I did as a digital rental for only $0.99 on Vudu.