Imagining a Better Future by Re-imagining the Past

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Dieselpunk Horror: Shadow of the Vampire

Though I normally don't post entries just a few days apart with Halloween being just next weekend I thought I would go ahead and post a review of one of what I consider to be one of the best dieselpunk horror films: “Shadow of the Vampire.”

Warning: the following review includes spoilers.

As I tried to write this review I found myself unable to improve upon a statement I found in Wikipedia, which was that the Shadow of the Vampire “is a fictionalized account of the making of the classic vampire film Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens, directed by F. W. Murnau.” In Shadow of the Vampire the actors and crew of the movie Nosferatu are told that the one playing the vampire, Max Shreck (William Defoe), would stay in character throughout the shooting. Over time as filming continues they become suspicious that something is wrong as members of the crew start to disappear or fall ill. Eventually the truth is discovered, which is that Shreck isn’t an actor but an actual vampire. The director, F. W. Murnau (John Malkovich), had made a Faustian deal with a real vampire that if he acted for him he would give Shreck the actress Greta Schroeder (Catherine McCormack) to feast upon.

This movie is a great example of dieselpunk horror. Not only does it rewrite the history of a real diesel era event (a common aspect found in many dieselpunk creations) but as one watches the movie one has to ask who the monster in the movie really is? Is the monster just the vampire or is the real monster much more human? The way the film presents this question adds a wonderful 'punk' component to the movie.

The Shadow of the Vampire isn’t an action packed horror movie, by any means. Also, though it’s rated R it’s certainly not a slasher film and is light on the gore and blood. But if you want a good horror movie with depth, wit and intelligence I highly recommend Shadow of the Vampire as an alternative to the usual formulaic horror films.

A side note about the real actor Max Shreck who played the vampire in the actual movie Nosferatu. An interesting twist of historical irony is that the actor’s last name just happens to be the same German word for “terror.” Not much is known about his personal life except, according to Wikipedia, “Schreck's contemporaries recalled he was a loner with an unusual sense of humor and skill in playing grotesque characters. One reported he lived in "a remote and strange world" and that he spent time walking through dark forests.”

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