Thursday, October 14, 2010

'Shadow of the Vampire' brings off-beat horror

Shadow of the Vampire (2000)
Starring: John Malkovich, Willem Dafoe, Udo Keir, Cary Elwes, and Catherine McCormack
Director: E. Elias Merhige
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

Eccentric silent movie director F.W. Murnau (Malkovich) drags the cast and crew to a crumbling castle in Eastern Europe to shoot "Nosferatu", an illicit adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel "Dracula." Here, they find the actor playing the vampire, Max Shreck (Dafoe) has taken method acting to new heights. He's living the part to the point where crew members start mysteriously dying....

"Shadow of the Vampire" is a quirky movie that can't quite make up its mind between being a horror movie or a comedy. This is one of the rare instances where this sort of uneasy positioning works; I think in the end the film would have been stronger if it had been a tad more genre focused, but there's an air of moodiness and strangeness over everything that keeps things together.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the film is its commentary on movie making and the creative process in general. In the film, it becomes unclear who the biggest monster is... the vampire or the film director who is willing to sacrifice his actors and crew to it, just so he can create the ultimate movie. It's a question that gets harder and harder to answer as the film draws to a close.

"Shadow of the Vampire" is a fascinating, if odd, movie. It should appeal in particular to fans of old horror films, but I think anyone who enjoys a film that delivers the unexpected should have fun with it.

Trivia: This film is partially based on an urban legend that states silent film and stage actor Max Schreck was really a vampire.

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