31 Days of Halloween-Day 10: Shadow of the Vampire (2000)

Having completed my journey through the three Nosferatu films, I took a side trip to visit Shadow of the Vampire. This flick from 2000 takes a look at the filming of the original Nosferatu in 1921. John Malkovich (Red) stars as director F. M. Murnau and Willem Dafoe is actor Max Schreck. Willem Dafoe’s performance here would earn him the role of the Green Goblin in 2002’s Spider-Man. It’s best to consider this as an alternate universe version of the events. The movie starts after Murnau has decided to move forward despite the Bram Stoker estate demanding they stop filming the story of Dracula. He has simply changed the names, moved forward with production and is ready for location shooting in Czechoslovakia. Max Schreck is a mysterious figure on set, arriving on location before the cast and keeping to himself. However, he’s taking method acting to new heights; he’s not merely eccentric as he is, in reality, a vampire. To cover that fact, the crew is told Schreck will only appear in full make-up and all his scenes will be filmed at night. One-by-one, people begin to die and disappear as Schreck is feeding on the crew. Murnau descends into madness as he desperately wants to finish his film. An excellent supporting cast includes Udo Kier as producer Albin Grau, Cary Elwes as Fritz Arno Wagner, Catherine McCormick as Greta Schroder and the incredible Eddie Izzard as Gustav von Wangenhein. A fascinating, yet non-fictional, behind-the-scenes look at the filming of a horror classic. Director E. Elias Merhige, who only made three more films after this, does an amazing job of recreating scenes from the original and building tension through atmospheric settings. Viewing both films back-to-back will increase your appreciation of both films. The quirkiness also reminded me of the academy award-nominated Hugo from 2011.  Speaking of quirky, Nicolas Cage’s production studio was a driving force behind the film, which earned more than $11 million on a budget of $8 million and was well-received by critics. It is currently available on DVD for approximately $10. Not quite a horror film but fun October viewing all the same. And, if you want to hear more about it, listen to episode 6 of the Martian Drive In Podcast, hosted by Terry Frost.

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