It’s time to draw my 13 Days of Halloween to an end, and a mere 2 days after the end of the proper Halloween. So I figured, what better way to come to an end, than by watching one of the oldest horror movies ever made, Nosferatu. Released in 1922 this silent film was a barely-legal ripoff of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, with all of the characters names cleverly changed.
It’s an interesting task to try to review a silent film, particularly one with such a wide influence. (And looking at my watch, I see I don’t have much time to do this.) As I watched the movie I kept recognizing scene after scene that I’d come across before. The film really is remarkable. It’s dark, and genuinely creepy. If anything the lack of any dialog adds to the mood. The location work is really amazing, as are some of the effects shots. Given the primitive technology that director F.W. Murnau had to work with, I’m impressed. (I’m also struck again with just what a piece of shit Thankskilling was, but that’s a whole other issue.) Max Schreck is unforgettable as Count Orlok / Nosferatu. Of course, this was no surprise. There’s a reason why this remains one of the iconic characters in all of cinema history. I was surprised, however, by the performance of Gustav von Wangenheim as Hutter, the film’s protagonist. Despite the primitive medium, he really manages to come across as a believable everyman, something that some modern actors can’t seem to accomplish even with multi-million dollar budgets at their disposal.
The bottom line here is that this is really a fascinating piece of cinema. I thoughtfully enjoyed it, but I don’t think I can bring myself to say its “must see” it doesn’t quite hold up well enough to overcome the signs of age and the restrictions of the “silent film” era. Still, it’s incredibly well worth seeing. I’d actually encourage watching this along side Dracula, both to see two different takes on the same story, and to see how far movie technology advanced in the mere nine years that separate the two films.