The greatest of all silent horror film and one of the most accomplished films ever. F.W. Murnau’s, Nosferatu is simply magnificent and a true landmark. It is so good that for almost a whole century after its release it continues to haunt rather than terrify audiences with eerie music, brilliant effects, and horrifying antagonist who beats most other vampires without making a sound.
Set in 1938, Thomas Hutter travels to the castle of Count Orlok, who wishes to relocate to the house that just happens to be opposite where Hutter lives with his wife. It soon becomes clear to Hutter that the Count is in fact a Nosferatu, the “Bird of Death.” After arriving in Germany the Count begins killing people while bringing plague and disease with him. In the final moments of the story Orlok meets his end and his reign of terror is brought to an end. Being an unauthorized adaption of Dracula, the film makes many deviations that allow it to stand in its own feet without sacrificing the viewers interest in the process.
The visuals are deeply expressionistic. From the interior of Orlok’s castle to the tall cells of the mental asylum it has a distinct style to its architecture. The prosthetics used for Count Orlok make him look more than crrepy, he is down right hideous not to mention scary. One will notice that there is a clear lack of blood, but seeing how this was made in the 1920’s its hardly unexpected and if anyhting actually adds to the tone. The best use of the effects comes in the form of Orlok’s shadow which moves all on its own and would later be referencced in Francis Ford Coppola’s authorised film of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
The acting is silent brilliance. Max Shreck is amazing in every scene and should be well remembered for making the insidious Count Orlok so memorable and inspiring the remake that came many years later. Gustav Von Wangenheim makes Thomas Hutter an interesting and likeable substitute for Johnathan Harker, and the same can be said for Greta Schroder who plays Ellen Hutter. Unlike the obnoxious nut in the remake, Knock is a fascinating take on the character of Renfield thanks to the great Alexander Granach who doesn’t lack subtlety. It is truly amazing how good a cast can be without ever saying a single thing. However you approach it, in the end the actors from the original are better than those from the 1979 film.
If you’re looking for silent horror this is the film to watch. With its magnificent music, dark atmosphere and perfect cast, this is a seminal vampire film that beats out all others. A truly unmissable masterpiece.