A landmark in horror cinema, F. W. Murnau's "Nosferatu" (originally titled "Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens" which translates to "Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror") is something that could no longer be considered frightening.
Consider the trailer for the "Evil Dead" remake—graphic and disturbing just in the brief amount of time it consumes. But "Nosferatu" seems comical if anything looking back with eyes that have been beaten into submission by gross out movie after gross out movie.
There is no blood in "Nosferatu"—yet blood is life for our character...for this film is one of the first vampire movies ever made. Based on Bram Stoker's book Dracula, "Nosferatu" is the ancestor of all monster movies. Later would come "King Kong" and even movies like "Them!" where incredibly large ants terrorize the population—they all takes cues from "Nosferatu".
The bad guy is obvious to all who look upon him, and by "all" I mean the audience. For even though he looks ridiculous, with Burton-style makeup darkening his eyes and finger extensions making it clearly hard for him to grip things, he is inherently evil.
This ain't no "Twilight"—there is not a redeeming quality about the vampire here. He goes by two names, either Count Orlok or Nosferatu (which is more than once referred to as the song of the death bird...curious).
Then again, Nosferatu and Edward Cullen are two characters that are impossible to compare. One of the them is portrayed as a man (this is key) who is trapped by his lust for human flesh and blood. The other is a creature who is by no means human—only in figure appearing similar.
The movie begins with the pages of a book—we are being told this story in the Disney way.
Our narrator is unclear to me, though I have a guess as to who it is—but it is neither Nosferatu nor our leading man, Hutter.
Hutter works for Knock, an estate agent—one that is in business with Count Orlok/the blood sucking neighbor.
Knock sends Hutter to Count Orlok (who's moving from his country) to sell him an old abandoned house—conveniently located right across a river from Hutter's own house.
So Hutter sets out to Transylvania—the land of phantoms and thieves.
The party who accompanies him refuses to travel further than a given point—superstitions run deep in these people. Setting out to find the elusive Count Orlok alone, Hutter finds himself in the middle of a creepy forest at night.
Along comes the typical carriage careening down the path and here is where we get the first look at our vampire. He is the driver, sitting hunched over at the reigns with his coat covering most of his face. His eyes gleam over the black fabric...this man is clearly the villain.
Alas, poor Hutter doesn't realize this as he walks right into the spider's web. We fade out and change scenes before we see anything; but Hutter wakes up the next morning with two "mosquito bites" on his neck.
Hutter has a wife, Ellen who is so distressed about him leaving and going to Transylvania that she has to stay with a friend. There is some connection between Hutter and his wife—right before Count Orlok feasts on Hutter for presumably the second time, Ellen dreams of something horrific and screams out her husband's name. Just like that, Nosferatu recedes and leaves Hutter alone.
It goes to show that Murnau was not afraid to shy away from the supernatural.
While the plot is nothing too sophisticated, a straight shot from beginning to end—nature plays a curiously dark role in the movie. We see the Venus fly trap devouring a victim and it is said to be just like a vampire. Perhaps the blood sucking creatures are actually plants of some kind. One thing is for sure, the movie is clear that they have no conscience.
Nosferatu could also be capable of mind control......just throwing that out there.
The most iconic image of the movie is the vampire rising from a coffin with his arms outstretched—you can feel the people of the 1920s screaming. It's quite ugly looking, and a different kind of scary than the jump-scares we get in today's horror cinema.
Lars von Trier, though disturbing on so, so many levels, came close to recapturing this kind of horror with his 2009 work, "Antichrist". His film is not one that scares you by throwing things at the screen, instead it unsettles you at your core.
Though I wasn't spooked at all by "Nosferatu"—it's admirable in its own way.
Mas Schreck gives the performance of his lifetime as the iconic bad guy. He is the actor that made the line "What a lovely throat!" tied to vampires forever.
It's a bleak and deliciously gothic movie.
Score: 3 and a half stars out of 4
Posted by Micah Jones