Shadow of a snuff film

Here’s what I thought of SHADOW OF A VAMPIRE, a film that offered itself as candy for film history buffs but tasted more like a poisoned apple.

Willem Dafoe pulled off a reluctant Hannibal Lector. His Nosferatu, aka Dracula, was more like a blind mole rat than Schreck’s unblinking menace. I know! He was Yoda with an appetite! A fine performance for trick-or-treating.

But above all I can’t excuse this plot’s two main suggestions: that Murnau intended a snuff film with his two unsuspecting stars, or that he decayed into lunacy years before his greatest films!

I found Murnau’s voice-overs about the potential of the film medium to be compelling, but I was turned off at the conjecture that as an artist he would repudiate the creative act. Here Murnau’s character dismissed rehearsal and script and acting in exchange for a live freak upon which he needed to add no makeup. What a lame idea for a story! Here’s an idea: Murnau rises from the grave as a zombie and slays everyone who is dumbing-down his medium. The players in this movie all have the financial means and talent to say something meaningful!

If Murnau’s character had been a Hollywood hack, it might have worked as a self condemnation: no faith in the invocation of art, live voyeurist spectacle is all that’s needed to entertain. But Murnau’s Nosferatu was a technical tour-de-force. This film borrowed his footage without giving the credit, then dismissed the real talent that it took in the first place. If Murnau doesn’t want to rise from the grave, I will!

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Eric Verlo

About Eric Verlo

On sabbatical
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