When it comes to determining how great a horror film is, it always comes down to what you see, or don’t see. Dialogue can be elaborate plot, but can bog the visual adrenaline down. The thrill of terror rides on whether what we see is a monster or a zipper down the back. The creepiest vampire images I have ever come across all come from the silent “symphony of horror,” Nosferatu.
Nosferatu is a silent German Expressionist vampire film from 1922. Here, our main vampire, Count Orlok (Max Schreck), is a sickly pale and skinny creature with pointy ears, creepy teeth and long, claw like fingers. His presence on screen is so powerful and terrifying, every image of him still gives me the creeps.
Nosferatu is based very closely to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, with a few deviations. The words vampire and Dracula are never used, instead nosferatu refers to vampires and our Count Dracula is Count Orlok. However, since director F.W. Murnau did not get permission to use Stoker’s material, he was sued. Some sources say that the lawsuit called for all copies of the film to be destroyed. Whether that is true or not, the film was restored in 1994 and today is is available on Netflix Instant. I believe that is quite a feat for a ninety year old film and shows just how important it still is.
In the version available on Netflix, the film is tinted. For some people, this may be a bit discouraging. I wasn’t too happy about it, at first. Within a few minutes I realized that the different colors designated time, with blue tint is most obviously representing night. Designating these time shifts visually is so important because the entire film was shot in the daylight. We certainly can’t have vampires around during the day.
Fun fact and **spoiler alert**: this film is the origin of the myth that sunlight destroys vampires. Who would have imagined it would bring such a huge contribution to vampire lore!
Seeing Nosferatu on a big screen, in a dark theater, with a live symphony playing is one of my cinematic dreams. The music, as well as the film, alone are master pieces. Even as I watched it on my couch in the middle of the day, I found it very creepy. That pale, unblinking face, those long reaching fingers, and the build up to perfect terrors is so fun and should not be missed. Nosferatu is one of the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and a must see for any film fan, whether you’re into horror or not.
“Is this your wife? What a lovely throat.”