I’ve decided to subject myself to 31 days of horror films for the month of October. It will be a mix of rewatching stuff I haven’t seen in a while and brand new things. Day 18:
SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE (2000) – dir. E. Elias Merhige
It’s weird to me that I had never heard about this movie until January of this year. G was really shocked that I had never seen it so she decided to put it on for our movie last night. On paper, this sounds like something right up my alley. A metafictional horror comedy film about cinema legend F.W. Murnau making a devil’s compact with the real Count Orlok to in order to create the seminal horror masterpiece NOSFERATU (1922), sign me up. I thought I would eat this film up but sadly that was not meant to be.
I’m a sucker for a film about the art of filmmaking but something about this movie never rang completely true or new with me. Murnau (John Malkovich) is compared with the literal vampire (Willem Dafoe) that he employs. The film likes to posit again and again that the power madness of being a director is similar to that of the Count. While I agree that directors are insane people, the messaging felt way to on the nose. I never really found myself sliding into rhythm with the film and felt not drawing myself into the themes at all.
The highlight is Willem Dafoe chewing up scenery as Count Orlok pretending to be real-life actor Max Schreck who is cast as Orlok in the film. You can tell Dafoe loves this role and is having so much as a vampire having to pretend to be an actor. When he demands make-up because he wants to feel included I did chuckle quite a bit. He’s the reason to watch the film. He even manages to give one truly sad moment when he describes the sadness of the novel Dracula.
I don’t know if 17 years were kind to the film. If you haven’t seen it maybe it may resonate with you. As it stands for me, I think I could have passed on this entirely and just watch some clips of the film.