Take a Drink: whenever Hutter (Butter?) is obnoxiously cheesy
Take a Drink: for foreboding foreshadowing
Take a Drink: for teeth and teethmarks
Take a Drink: whenever something unsettling occurs
Do a Shot: when you first gaze upon… NOSFERATU!
By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
Around this time of year, back in University, I got the opportunity to experience Nosferatu as it was originally intended, or close enough, anyway. My buddies and I caught it in a small, dark theater, with a small contemporary band providing a live score. It was incredible, and a lot more fun than I was expecting from a movie whose tagline I was pretty sure meant “A Symphony of Groins.”
Also Magic Mike’s tagline
Now I’m significantly further along in my filmic education, I have learned that it means “A Symphony of Groans”, of course.
Okay, Magic Mike works here, too…
Nosferatu is a thinly veiled adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, featuring a milquetoast doofus named Harker/Hutter (Butter?) who travels to Transylvania at the behest of Count Dracula/Orlok and sells him a house near his, which ends up being a terrible decision when he moves in and starts making those forever promises to Harker/Hutter (Butter?)’s fiancee. Oh, and murdering the populace.
The bones of this film may be Dracula (which almost cost us it- Stoker’s widow sued and succeeded in getting all but one copy of the film destroyed), but screenwriter Henrik Galeen and director F.W. Murnau make Dracula their own, iconic character… Nosferatu! Many elements of design and plotting, particularly the ending, are original, and so influential that they’ve become cannon, like how sunlight murders vampires. In the novel it just weakens them.
Murnau’s directorial approach is to pull the audience out of its comfort zone as much as possible, which he accomplishes with a grab bag of technical tricks, including fast forward, reversed negatives, silhouettes, frame skips, and much more. Other elements that were likely unintentional and unavoidable, like day for night photography and the dark, grainy nitrate filmstock, or the heavy silent film makeup that leaves eyes either washed out or black circled, just accentuate the otherworldly creepiness of the film.
This film belongs to Max Schreck’s deathly pale, bright-eyed, long-clawed, shambling nightmare, though. He makes a monster with only a few vestiges of the man that was, an icon that is no little kid’s going to want to cape and teeth up and trick or treat as. Nosferatu’s an uncanny beast, something that should not be, and from Lugosi all the way up to The Strain’s strigoi, still the vampire that evokes the most pure, uncut horror.
The quality of the rest of the acting is… not great. As usual Harker/Hutter (Butter?) is the weak link, with Gustav Van Wangenheim bearing the ignominy of perhaps the worst, and certainly the cheesiest version of the character. Literally everything puts a stupid grin on his face, including the Prince of Darkness trying to eat his girlfriend. In fact, everyone overacts to such an extent that even the cheerful, “normal” scenes are vaguely unsettling.
Come be normal with us!
Nosferatu- a Symphony of Horror hasn’t aged perfectly, but in a dark room, or a dark theater with a booming score, its capacity to make your skin crawl is undiminished.