I’d heard good and bad things about Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Vampyr, and I was curious as to which camp I would end up in. I was especially excited to try this one out, as Dreyer had previously directed The Passion of Joan of Arc, which immediately shot up my list of all-time favorite silent productions ever; it may very well be at the top of that list. Sadly, for both camps, I came out somewhere in the middle when it comes to how much I liked Vampyr, but I would definitely edge further away from calling it good overall than I would poor.
The film is classified as a horror, really because it’s the genre that the film is closest to, not because it is actually scary; rather, ethereal, as some films in the horror genre tend to be, but not as the principle genre itself as this film uses it. Dreyer’s cinematography evokes a very trance-like, dreamy state, albeit one that tends to forego narrative to channel its particular aura. The film makes the mistake of using its title cards to tell most, if not all, of the story, leaving the moving images to induce the vaporous cloud that is the film’s primary goal. By 15 minutes in, I had no idea what was going on, which, if a film is principally trying to tell a story as this one mostly was, is the biggest mistake it could make. The film even asks at one point, “What is going on?”, which I found especially humorous. Over and over, I could see the intention of the film and understand it, but I was still desperately trying to work out a narrative for what I was seeing, and those two mindsets clashed too often for me to keep track of while watching this.
All in all, I had high expectations coming into this one, and sadly they were not met. That may have been a bit unfair, drawing comparisons to Joan of Arc, but with a 100% on the Tomatometer, it was too hard not to. I gave it good marks for atmosphere, as it seemed to be the primary intention even over the story, but I gave it bad marks for the story itself, which was still there, crying desperately to be heard through the fog. So, in that regard, it kinda evened out when it came down to the actual score. Still, I’d find it hard to recommend this one to any but a select few, and especially not to a general audience, which sadly means Vampyr won’t be getting my particular endorsement.
Arbitrary Rating: 6/10