Shadow of the Vampire

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(2000) ★★★½

Syfy: Friday 20 November, 9.00pm

Willem Dafoe characteristically creepy as skeletal German actor Max Schreck in a wildly melodramatic fantasia on the filming of F.W. Murnau’s silent screen vampire classic Nosferatu. The real film was in jeopardy from the start when Bram Stoker’s widow denied the producers any rights to Dracula. So Murnau simply changed the character’s name to Orlok.

In writer Steven Katz’s chaotic speculation, Max Schreck is actually a Slovakian vampire pretending to be an actor pretending to be a vampire, allowed by Murnau to stay in character throughout the shoot and to appear unannounced in full make-up on the set in front of the startled cast and crew. (Max Schreck was so eerily ethereal in Murnau’s Nosferatu that the wild idea he really was a vampire seems almost feasible.) John Malkovich’s Murnau is dictatorial and obsessive, a scientist creating memories that will neither blur nor fade (the film’s shooting title was Burned to Light).

The performances are funny and the curiously lightweight story is intriguing up to a point. But this heavily stylised piece of spookery – part homage and part affectionately mocking charade – lacks the subtlety and wit of Ian McKellen’s similarly speculative James Whale biopic Gods and Monsters.

Certificate: 15
Duration: 88min

IMDB – Shadow of the Vampire

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Other Showings Date & Time
Syfy Thursday, 26 November at 11:30PM