Thursday, September 22, 2011

Nosferatu (Murnau. 1922)

"Blood! Your precious blood!"

When the average cinematic consumer is reduced to seeing the latest crap-fest horror film in theatres, it is almost without question that a true film snob will bring up how they all should have watched Nosferatu. Here is a film that has helped dictate what makes a horror film successful. Though this may not be one of the more immediately frightening films for a person to watch, it is a film that resonates with the audience's desire to be afraid. It also provides the silent era with its most famous monster.

Nosferatu is one of the first on-screen tellings of the enormously famous "Dracula" by Bram Stoker. The studio was unable to call their character Dracula due to copyright issues, and I would say that they caught a lucky break. Nosferatu is a scary name, and the monster on the screen is terrifying enough to back it up.

It has been argued that silent horror films have a much higher success rate when it comes to making your audience feel "creepy". This is because the audience is completely dependent on the actions of the characters to be frightened. Murnau was not given the luxury of creaking doors and piecing screams. He mastered the concept of horror by timing and his actor rewarded him with one of the most memorable performances in all of horror.

Max Schreck might actually be a vampire. According to legend, he refused to break character after the cameras were no longer rolling. He had bulging eyes and razor sharp teeth that stuck out from any other monster ever seen to that point. Nosferatu is still scary looking - and I am 22 years old.

One major aspect that I like about Nosferatu is how seriously it takes the source material. This is not your everyday Bela Lugosi-type Dracula. Nosferatu is a man who has been cursed by evil. The audience understands that the soul behind the vampire is unwilling to commit these horrible acts of murder.

At the same time, we understand that Nosferatu is a horrible monster. He needs to kill in order to stay alive. That is what a vampire does. He may not have asked to be cursed, but he is cursed nonetheless. He is a monster that needs to be dealt with- he is pure evil.

It is that little moral tug-of-war that makes Nosferatu work for me. The film is no longer scary enough to make adults flee from the theatre, but it is creepy enough to work on all of its own levels. Watching this is like watching a genre come to life.

Nosferatu: B

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