“Blood is life.”
Nosferatu is one of the scariest vampires committed to celluloid. His long, slow-moving fingers and eyes like dark portals make for, arguably, the most sinister movie monsters. He’s more creature than man, more lust than logic. He wants flesh, and that’s all there is to it. It’s so simple, it’s scary.
The film is loosely based on Stoker’s Dracula novel, which got Nosferatu into a lot of trouble, forcing most original prints to be destroyed. Thomas Hutter (Gustav von Wangenheim) is sent by his employer to a remote Transylvania castle where he meets the chilling Count Orlok (Max Schreck), a heartless vampire who hungers for Hutter’s flesh, along with the flesh of his beautiful wife Ellen (Greta Schröder).
I admire the economy of the film, how it moulds Stoker’s complex story into a simpler, more expressionist symphony. Characters are only used as necessary, and the screenplay is cleverly structured around the most interesting character, Nosferatu and no one else. Ellen is arguably the tragic hero, not Hutter whom we’re lead to believe will be our hero, and this makes for a surprising finale that weighs on the audience and ends the film on a strange, somber triumph.
Scenes are constructed expertly, with a careful restraint given to exposition, comedy, and other detractors from the central terror. The film is paced like a nightmare, cutting between events with dream-like fluidity. Hutter, his wife, and the rest of the townspeople, are made to suffer, and the film balances these scenes well. I also enjoyed how Nosferatu wasn’t afraid to travel around, breaking conventional notions of the secluded, manor-bound vampire. (There’s a scene where Nosferatu is a pirate, and I think that’s awesome.)
Nosferatu is short, sweet, and it delivers. It’s a film that puts all its eggs in one basket: in this case, its villain. And it works. Schreck gives one of the most powerful performances you’ll ever see, as if there’s something rat-like and inhuman about the actor himself. It’s a perfect slice of horror from which modern filmmakers could learn quite a bit.
Films Left to Watch: 828