Sunday, December 14, 2014

Shadow of the Vampire (2000)

An intriguing, fun work of historical fiction, set behind-the-scenes of F.W. Murnau's seminal horror film NOSFERATU. The premise is that the film's mysterious and enigmatic star, Max Schreck (Willem Dafoe in a tour-de-force performance), may be an actual vampire, whose appearance in the movie is part of a pact with Murnau (John Malkovich) to procure fresh blood from the unsuspecting leading lady.

From this highly original premise, director E. Elias Merhige crafts an atmospheric tale that is part horror film and part dark satire on filmmaking, with the character of the obsessive artist willing to stop at nothing -- including the death of his cast and crew -- in order to see his vision put on the screen.

The film never quite finds the proper balance between horror and black comedy, though, and the overall result is rather uneven. Still, it's great fun for film enthusiasts and horror movie fans, who will appreciate the attention to detail in re-creating the sets, costumes and memorable shots of Murnau's legendary horror classic, and the strong performances by Dafoe and Malkovich.

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