Shadow of the Vampire (2001)
Directed by E. Elias Merhige

Starring Cary Elwes Catherine McCormack John Malkovich Udo Kier Willem Dafoe

Actually, this film officially came out in 2000, but didn`t hit wide release until 2001.

The reason I mention that is that, had I seen this film in 2000, I would have ranked it among the very best of that year. As it is, at the time of this writing, we`ll have to wait and see how it ranks up for 2001.

"Shadow" is not a film for every horror fan. It`s truly a thinking man`s horror picture. There isn`t a high body count, very little action and the humor is understated. But it`s a marvelous little fear flick and its ending offers up one of the most horrifying on screen since the original "Blair Witch" scared the wits out of some of us in 1999.

Truth is, the film has a lot in common with "The Blair Witch." Like that mockumentary, it`s a fictional account of movie making gone horribly wrong. In this case, the movie in question is the original silent classic "Nosferatu." Director F.W. Murnau (Malkovich) hires a strange star, Max Schreck (Dafoe), to portray the title character of Nosferatu, who is based on Bram Stoker`s Dracula.

Weird thing is, Schreck doesn`t require any make-up. Crew members start dying right and left on the set. As it turns out, Murnau has made a pact with the devil. Schreck is actually a real-life vampire and Murnau is willingly giving a sacrifice to him in order to make the most realistic vampire movie of all time.

Dafoe`s portrayal of Schreck as a sympathetic vampire is done mainly for laughs. Malkovich, meanwhile, mainly plays real-life director Murnau as an asshole fanatic filmmaker.

Like "Blair Witch," "Shadow" has an ending that does not compromise. In fact, the whole movie seems designed to deliver the ending, which explores the voyeurism inherit in filmmaking, very much like "Blair Witch" did. It also isn`t far off from "Mute Witness" or even "Snuff."

Gore hounds won`t find much to celebrate here, but if you like your horror thoughtful and provoking, this is your movie. Also, if you`re a fan of "Blood For Dracula," you`ll get a kick out of seeing Udo Kier in a sizeable role as the German film producer.

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-- Review by Lucius Gore

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