Halloween Quickies: SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE (2000)

October rocks man. And there's no way in hell I'm not writing about horror flicks this month! I've yet to find time to crank out a full review, but until then, I'll try to post a quick blurb about a Halloween-ish horror movie every day. Of course, a Halloween spook-a-thon isn't complete without at least one vampire flick, so I decided to check out a movie that's clever plot really piqued my interests...

Friedrich Murnau is a filmmaker in 1922 making a horror movie, but not just any horror movie: he's making Nosferatu. He's eccentric for sure, but even more eccentric is his star, Max Schreck, Count Orlok himself. In fact, the cast and crew begins to notice that he's getting a little too into his vampire character. Soon after he begins his role, members of the production begin to die one by one. Murnau may be obsessed with this film, but he wouldn't get an actual vampire to fill the lead role...would he?

Embarassing confession: I haven't actually seen the original Nosferatu (I really want to, believe me), and I really wish I had checked it out before venturing into Shadow of the Vampire. It's not vital to understanding the plot or anything, but I feel like it would certainly add another layer of appreciation for it. I willl say that I am in love with that plot, and this could have been a genuine classic...but sadly, I thought it fell a little short.

It's more of personal taste than anything, as the film has a tendency to fluctuate from intense drama to black comedy, and I found myself enjoying the comedy aspects a little more. The plot itself is ludicrous to begin with, and if they'd taken it for what it was and ran with it, it would've been gold. However, despite some very funny scenes (the vampire's fireside conversation with two crew members was great), most of the movie is way too serious. It even ends on a real downer of a note nd ultimately left  funny tatse in my mouth.

The acting is near flawless. John Malkovich is incredible and totally believable (yet completely manic at the same time), Udo Kier was the most likable character in the whole movie, and Cary Elwes stole my heart the minute he appaeared onscreen 9which was way too late in the film). But obviously the best actor is Willem DaFoe as the vampire, "Max Schreck" (a fake name). DaFoe is incredibly over-the-top and as weasly as one would expect the actual Nosferatu to act. His peformance itself is truly suit for a comedy (it kind of reminded me of Jim Carrey in A Series of Unfortunate Events), which isn't a bad thing, except I really wished the movie had travelled that road.

But it didn't. And because of that, Shadow of the Vampire becomes a one-joke movie that doesn't even realize the potential of that one joke. None of the characters are truly fleshed out to the point of an emotional connection being established, the only real conflict is "how do we get this vampire to stop killing people" even though the body count is extraordinarily low, and overall, it's kind of boring. I would probably find a lot more to like if I actually saw the original Nosferatu (I'm curious to see how close they were able to re-shoot those scenes), but as is, it's a little "eh." Definitely worth checking out for the strong ensemble of actors (in particular the dynamic between DaFoe and Malkovich, or even Dafoe, Malkovich, and Kier), but not a major source of Halloween thrills. The search continues.

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