To start off my month of scares, I thought it would only be appropriate to start with one of the films that began the whole genre, “Nosferatu.” The German expressionist film was released in 1922, and features Max Schreck as the the vampire Count Orlock.
Where I watched: Netflix (coincidentally I watched it on the last day it was available)
Length: 94 minutes
Prior knowledge of the film: The character, Nosferatu, is the butt of a joke in one of the scariest episodes of “Spongebob Squarepants.” Other than that, really, nothing.
Is Older Better?
It’s a common misconception that older horror films are better. While many older films are undeniably some of the best in the genre (yeah, I’ll be writing about “Rosemary’s Baby”), there have been great horror releases every few years for most of the history of the genre (I’ll be writing about “It Follows” as well). Although many of these great releases get lost within the dozens of horrible horror movies released yearly, it doesn’t take away from the fact that there are a few gems in the rough (really really rough sometimes). For me, “Nosferatu” doesn’t really prove that older is better.
It’s a great movie, of course, but I have been entertained by so many more recent films. While the student who has taken classes on film in me wanted to say “Wow, how revolutionary!” The human who needs to be entertained just said “Boooooriiiiiinnnnggggg.”
The coolest thing about this film is the fact that it exists. It’s such a complete copy of “Dracula” by Bram Stoker without having the rights that Stoker’s heirs sued over the film. A judge ordered every copy of the film to be destroyed, and through saving a few copies, and piecing them together where parts were missing, Nosferatu was born.
Was it actually scary?
No way. Maybe it’s because of the lack of dialogue, or maybe it’s because at this point, the legend of Dracula is so entrenched in popular horror culture, nothing in the film was really scary. The most frightening part was seeing the external scenes of Nosferatu’s castle in Transylvania, because that thing is about to topple off the side of a mountain at any moment.
Another scary moment was the beginning of the film. Thomas Hutter (Gustav von Wangenheim) was overacting in his facial expressions to the point where he looked completely psychotic. In the back of my mind I was waiting for him to be a psycho murderer the whole film. It’s obvious why he’s overacting — trying to portray emotion without using any noise must be incredibly difficult — but it just didn’t work for me, he looked way too crazy.
It’s definitely an influential and important piece of cinema, and I feel more intelligent and like a better human for watching it. But would I watch it again? I don’t think so. While beautifully shot and highly inventive, compared to modern films it’s a bore. For what it is, this movie is fantastic, but if I’m going to watch an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” it’s going to be “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” because, to be perfectly honest, Gary Oldman is way hotter than Max Schreck.