Shadow of the Vampire (2000)

Genres - Drama, Horror  |   Sub-Genres - Costume Horror, Gothic Film, Showbiz Drama  |   Release Date - Dec 29, 2000 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 91 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom , Luxembourg , United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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A fanciful retelling of the making of the classic 1922 horror film Nosferatu, this second feature by independent director E. Elias Merhige boasts a healthy knowledge of cinema history, particularly in its recreations of director F.W. Murnau's work locales and star Max Schreck's freakish visual appearance, but suffers from characterizations that would seem over-the-top in a vaudeville show. Malkovich suggests all of the bluster of director Murnau, but little of what made him such a vital director. In fact, judging by Malkovich's arch, often unpleasant portrayal, F.W. Murnau may as well have been Ed Wood. Dafoe fares better as the pointy-eared, blood-starved Schreck, but his technically precise performance exists as more of a stunt than anything else, leaving human emotions at bay. Shadow of the Vampire attempts to create a revisionist rhetoric of the tumultuous behind-the-scenes aspects of Nosferatu, but never quite understands the logic behind it. This is partly the point, but often the film's befuddled, rigid structure makes it more of an ordeal than it should be, especially when the original 1922 film on which its events are based is far richer in its exploration of frightful behavior without drawing so much attention to itself. A film that succinctly defines "not for all tastes," Shadow of the Vampire premiered at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival.