Monday, June 15, 2015

Netflix Instant Queue Movie Review: "Shadow of the Vampire" (2000)

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Movie"Shadow of the Vampire"
Director: E. Elias Merhige
Year: 2000
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 32 minutes

Director Friedrich Wilhelm Munrae (John Malkovich) is filming his masterpiece "Nosferatu". He has cast Max Schreck (Willem Dafoe) for the lead role of Count Orlock. Max is a method actor and taking his role extremely seriously, he may be the perfect vampire possibly a little too perfect. 

Filmmakers rewrite Hollywood history in "Shadow of the Vampire" as they create an alternate story for the making of the classic film "Nosferatu." John Malkovich plays director Friedrich Wilhelm Munrae, a man obsessed with getting his masterpiece just right, his way or no way. He has gone behind the back of film producer Albin Grau, played by Udo Kier, and has hired an actor he claims as Max Schreck to play Count Orlock. Munrae claims Schreck is a method actor. Schreck always appears in makeup and will only be referred to by Orlock, his character's name. Sure, there are some method actors out there, (Daniel Day-Lewis, anyone?) but Max is seemingly a little too method. In fact, he is so convincing as Orlock, it is hard to believe he is human at all as he often appears more vampire than living person. As we quickly find out, he probably isn't human and may actually be a vampire as he is seen drinking the blood of some small animals and eventually starts to attack the crew of the film in a vampireish style. Munrae is a little dismayed by the actions of Schreck, but not so much that it will stop him from completing his film. Munrae seems less worried about the actual lives of the people on his crew and more concerned with how losing certain people will impact his picture. Munrae was very aware of what Schreck was before he ever hired him, but didn't care because he was perfect for the part and had a vision of how he wanted his film to be executed. We as viewers have to stop and think, who is the bigger monster in this scenario: Schreck, who is simply doing what comes natural, or Munrae, who is willing to endanger the lives of others for the sake of his art?

This film is partially billed as horror, but doesn't contain any scary elements. It is much more a drama about a horror subject than a horror itself. Willem Dafoe is tremendously great as Max Schreck/Orlock. He has a weird face anyways, so putting it underneath Nosferatu makeup makes him even more scary looking. His mannerisms are quite realistic with how we think a vampire would act and we think he was perfect for this part. John Malkovich, as always, does a good job as well, playing Friedrich Wilhelm Munrae with a resounding conviction. He is obsessed with making his picture exactly the way he wants to and will not sacrifice his artistic integrity for petty things like the lives of others. Hard to deal with, we wonder how much of the real John Malkovich gets channeled into the parts he chooses to play as it seems like he might be a little method himself. Both Dafoe and Malkovich, as well as others, are able to add some good dark humor in with their dramatic parts for two very admirable performances that go hand in hand with one another very enjoyably. Compelling and engaging, "Shadow of the Vampire" ranges from being scarily interesting to fantastically creepy, but it's definitely not a horror movie by any stretch of the imagination.

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 7.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.9/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 81%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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