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Movie Review

Shadow of the Vampire

MPAA Rating: R-Rating (MPAA) for some sexuality, drug content, violence and language
Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
1 hr. 24 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
January 26, 2001
Poster. Copyrighted.
Relevant Issues
Willem Dufoe in “Shadow of the Vampire”
Featuring: John Malkovich, Willem Dafoe, Cary Elwes, Catherine McCormack, Udo Kier
Director: Elias Merhige
Producer: Jeff Levine, Nicolas Cage
Distributor: Lions Gate Films
Scene from Shadow of the Vampire

Here’s what the distributor says about their film: F.W. Murnau is making “Nosferatu” on location in Eastern Europe. The director is determined to make this the most authentic movie ever. To this end Murnau has employed a real vampire, Max Schreck. He explains Schreck’s weird behavior by saying that he is a fastidious method actor. As payment Schreck has been promised drug addicted beauty Greta—Nosferatu’s leading-lady. She is to be his at the end of filming. But it seems that Schreck cannot wait that long to taste the blood of the crew.

Viewer Comments
The movie is interesting, but gets bogged down too much. It seems overstudied and over-researched. It can’t decide whether it wants to be scary or funny, and it’s neither. Although there are two very funny scenes that caused me to laugh out loud: 1) Sheck (Willem Dafoe) grabs a bat out of the air and eats it. His companions’ response: “Sir, the German theater needs you!” and 2) When the director yells cut but Sheck continues to suck the blood from his co-star the other actors reprimand him by saying “you’re a Stanislavsky maniac!” This elitist, pseudointellectual and art as artifice posturing that was so popular in Weimar Germany (Hitler was a proponent of this stuff in his youth—he had a keen interest in vampires and the occult before he turned to politics) helped pave the way for the chaos that followed. Some of the other writers are correct when they talk about “Shadow of the Vampire” and evil. German cinema was at its peak when “Nosferatu” was being filmed, but something evil was lurking beyond the movie set. And they all thought he was just acting too.
My Ratings: [Average / 2]
Jim O'Neill, age 47
To start things off: I am a Christian. I am also a student of film. I consider myself Christian first, but I do not believe that every movie out there has to be of a Christian theme. This belief is not particularly popular in the local Christian community. I do like movies to have some sort of message or theme, whether they be Christian or not. And, in my movie watching, I’ve often found that some of the best and deepest themes can often be taken from both a Christian and non-Christian standpoint. A good example of such is “Shadow of the Vampire.” I read a review that stated that the movie is evil. Obviously, this person did not want to dig any further than the surface. This film is about compromising your integrity. The film asks the question, “Just how far will you go for your art?” By putting his cast and crew at risk, we discover how far F.W. Murnau (brilliantly portrayed by John Malkovich) will go. Then, to a lesser extent, we see the character of Max Schreck (played with an amazing flair by Willem Dafoe), a vampire who is playing an actor playing a vampire.

I’m sure it is the very presence of a vampire that made my fellow reviewers classify this movie as evil. I beg to differ. I’ve often found traditional vampire characters to be tragic figures in the true Shakespearean sense of the word. In every instance (particularly in the case of Dracula), the vampire has renounced God in favor of something else. And, if you take the time to notice, the vampire is almost always filled with regret for that decision, damned to an eternity of slavery to their uncontrollable blood lust. If you want my opinion, vampires have always been a metaphor for sinners; people who have renounced God (either by not acknowledging his existence or just choosing to ignore it) and end up slaves to their own sin for all eternity and earnestly wish that they could have made a different decision, but cannot. But, that’s neither here nor there; I’m supposed to be reviewing a movie. it’s very well done and well acted. It does have a good amount of black humor to it.

However, there is a nude scene that the movie could’ve done without and Cary Elwes’s German accent could’ve used a little work. Other than that, it was a very good film; a treat for film buffs such as myself.
My Ratings: [Average / 3½]
Tyler Smith, age 19
This is an adult movie. It could be very confusing for young people. In light of that, it was a very good vampire movie. There was two scenes with nudity. And two scenes with drug use. The lead actress uses heroin and goes mad. She rips her clothes off. But is seen by everyone else as a fool for her behavior. There is nothing sexy or glamorous about her behavior. It is simply a movie about a movie. What if the Vampire in the “real” film would have been real? “Shadow” is much more enjoyable if one has seen the original. Make-up, costumes and lighting are fantastic. Willem Defoe is superb, as is upcoming actor Eddie Izzard.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4½]
Carrie, age 35
I loved this film right through to the Third Quarter. It was dark and funny, but towards the end it began to drag. The ending was a little too sick, and way too long.
Gabriel, age 21, non-Christian
I don’t know what movie the other reviewers saw, but I thought this movie was brilliant. Willem Dafoe and John Malkovich are amazing, ESPECIALLY in Malkovich’s final speech into the camera as he descends into madness, so to speak. I thought it was funny and tragic at the same time. My favorite part came when Schreck and the director, Murnau were discussing their arrangements. Murnau says to the vampire, “I can still hurt you!” and Schreck looks at him a moment and then says, “How can you hurt me when I can’t even manage to hurt myself?” Did someone say WOW? I know I did… this film is very very good. It is not perfect, and there are some things that I would change were I in charge, but I am not, and the film is what it is.
My Ratings: [Average / 4½]
Jason Eaken, age 17
This movie had an interesting plot and so it was a let down when other things came into the plot that weren’t so good. There are several cases of drug use. One character visits a place which features sex acts and a secluded room for drug usage. A woman who is apparently drunk or high laughs while removing her shirt and several cuss words. They also used Jesus’ name a lot. I found this movie very offending.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 2½]
K.E., age 13
To begin with, as a Christian, this movie is morally reprehensible. I feel this movie was a waste of acting and just plain boring. The only “good” part of the movie was the character outfit of Willem Dafoe. He looks like the original character. that’s about it! In summary, the movie was Evil…
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive / 3]
Mark Benson, age 27
Movie Critics
…Some sexual cavorting and nudity is briefly seen in a strange party scene, while other nudity and groping occur at other moments…
…I was fascinated throughout the film, but by the last third I had lost any hope that it would make sense…
Jim Beaver, CineScene
…pays homage to its inspiration, carefully re-creating many of the most memorable scenes from the German vampire film…
James Berardinelli, ReelViews