review for Vampyr on AllMovie

Vampyr (1931)
by Todd Kristel review

Vampyr isn't the easiest classic film to enjoy, even if you are a fan of 1930s horror movies. It was originally shot as a silent film and later dubbed with a limited amount of dialogue; the performances are uneven (with some stylized acting that's reminiscent of the silent era), the disjointed plot would be considered confusing in any era, and the sparse dialogue makes the film seem even more vague and disquieting. Cinematographer Rudolph Mate provided a foggy, washed-out look to this black-and-white movie by allowing extra light to leak onto the exposed film; the blinding whites and muted grays fit well with the dreamlike nature of Vampyr, but some people may find these ghostly visuals hard to watch, particularly if they are viewing a scratchy print with poor subtitling. The use of long takes enhances the film's sense of eeriness, but it also deadens the pacing; the movie is too slow and ambiguous to be considered much of a thriller. But Carl Dreyer, whose other films include the silent masterpiece The Passion of Joan of Arc, isn't that type of director anyway; he has more in common with filmmakers such as Ingmar Bergman, who openly admired his work, and David Lynch, who has also shown a fondness for dreamlike movies that emphasize mood and imagery over an easily comprehensible plot. If you're patient with the slow pacing and ambiguous story line of Vampyr, you'll find that this film offers many striking images, including a man who sits down before his shadow does, a man who's buried under tons of flour, a room that gets darker as the door opens, and a funeral procession that's shot from inside a coffin. Although not exciting in terms of pacing, it's a good choice if you want to see a film that establishes a compelling mood.