Nosferatu: Phantom of the Night (Nosferatu: phantom der nacht)

Nosferatu: Phantom of the Night

Blood is life.

The last Dracula adaptation for me on the list is Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu the Vampyre, which is more of a remake of the 1922 horror classic than it is a new adaptation of the Bram Stoker work; something that Herzog fully intended. His admiration of the original knows no bounds, and it shows in this film. Unfortunately, I wasn’t much of a fan of the original Nosferatu, and this one either sticks so closely to it or showers admiring reverence on its aspects in just about every regard, so I guess I was predisposed to not care for this one too much. Don’t get me wrong, it is probably one of the best Dracula re-imaginings in film; it just wasn’t my cup of tea, or whatever other viscous liquid you might want to substitute for that analogy, depending on how much you want to indulge in horror.

The story you should damn well know by now, so I won’t go into it too much, but it is very nearly identical to the 1922 film. What makes this more than just a simple transliteration is how much Herzog decides to indulge in the feel of the story. The mood of the film comes principally from the cinematography (where else?); it was very muted and gloomy, as if the only type of daytime sky in the entire film is overcast, which was pretty much the case. What did take me by surprise was how unprofessional the film looked. Sure, it was moody, but in all honesty, whoever owns the rights to this one shouldn’t even bother with a Blu-ray release; there’s almost a complete lack of color, a look that suggest the film was shot on videotape, and more shots that are out of focus than I can count on my hands, which to me is particularly inexcusable. As for the acting, it was rather melodramatic; all the characters wear their emotions on their sleeves, and gosh darn if they’re not going to make sure you know absolutely what they’re feeling by upping the delivery of the emotion far higher than it should be. It doesn’t help that the camera lingers often on these heightened emotional moments for so long, which makes the film slightly longer than it needed to be, and the film isn’t particularly long to begin with. I will say, though, that having Klaus Kinski play Nosferatu is one of the best and easiest casting decisions of the decade.

As much as I wanted to give this a higher rating just for how unbelievably moody it was, I really couldn’t ignore all the faults the film makes for what is hardly Herzog’s first feature film. The grittiness of his style might work for films like Stroszek, or especially Fitzcarraldo, but it just got distracting in this one, when indeed it could’ve been well utilized in a horror film such as this. Added to that the fact that this is a very devoted remake of a film that is already on the list, and you really don’t need to see both if you’ve already seen one of them. To this one’s credit, I’d probably advise seeing this over the 1922 classic, even with the fact that the original is so well regarded, but it is because it is so well regarded that this one does it so much justice. Redundancy is very rarely a good thing for me in films, and even more so on the list, so as much as this had to offer someone unfamiliar with the type or style of film it was, it had almost nothing to offer me.

Arbitrary Rating: 6/10

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2 thoughts on “Nosferatu: Phantom of the Night (Nosferatu: phantom der nacht)

  1. Not much to add, just wanted to point out that not only did we both score this one a 6, but we both had basically the same complaints (uninspired camerawork, melodramatic acting) and the same saving grace (Kinski, of course). Thanks for reassuring me that I’m not crazy for being down on the flick!

    • It’s comforting to go generally against the field and still find one or two people to help validate your opinions. Dunno how much that’ll hold up in the future, but for now, yeah; it’s nice to be reassuring for a while.

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