A Review of Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu – Part of The Corner Critic’s Over-Excitement About The Fact it’s Halloween

Is it October already?  Apparently, it is the second week of October, and I still have yet to do anything for Halloween. But it’s still a few weeks away, right? Well, yes, but Halloween and horror cannot truly be devoted to one day. For whatever reason, people constantly use the month of October to indulge in whatever horror films they wish.

Who am I to go against the trend?

Besides, horror has been a part of the medium since the very beginning. Films like Murnau’s Nosferatu and Tod Browning’s Dracula still haunt us. Even one of Edison’s first films was an adaptation of Frankenstein. Why is there such an obsession with monsters? Well, maybe because film can more accurately reflect the images in our minds that have seemed to always haunt the collective conscious. Atmosphere is also an important part of any horror story. It takes a master of the written word to do it. It takes an even greater master to do it on film. You think it would be easy, but then, so few films do it. Most authors have the distinct advantage of allow us to hear a character’s thoughts. With a film, we have to guess. Some of the most frightening parts of any film are when we think we have a character figured out, only to have them turn one hundred and eighty degrees in the opposite direction.

Well, for the rest of the month, the only films that will be reviewed are horror films, or at least horror themed. I still may do special articles not about horror, but then, where is the fun in that?

So, speaking of atmosphere, first up is Werner Herzog’s remake of the classic Nosferatu.

The original Nosferatu still remains amongst the most famous horror films in history. It actually helps skew the memories and perception many have about vampire lore. For example, the recent development of Vampire as Sex symbol undercuts the very thing that being a vampire means. Namely, if you are a vampire, you are not human. You are an impostor.

Werner Herzog has been one of the few people to recognize this truth.

The plot is Dracula. I am sure you know it. If not, you have better things to do than read blog posts. Get reading.

The main thing that I can discuss in relation to the film is Klaus Kinski’s performance as Dracula. Usually, Dracula is portrayed as a camp figure. When he says “I want to suck your blood,” it is hard to not see everyone in the scene smile. That is the absolute wrong approach to take. Kinski’s Dracula says it, and you recoil with horror, because it is possible to sense that he really means it.

He barely even looks human. Dracula is a pale, rat like figure with pointed front teeth, who is constantly twittering and nervous. He can barely speak…some would say it is because Dracula is not familiar with ways to properly speak to people, as he has been secluded for many centuries. This Dracula is also alone (ie, no “brides” that were present in the novel), making his solitude that much more pronounced.
What does he surround himself with? Items of death. This would be another thing I should mention. Rather than being the traditional gothic castle (where, on the inside, not a brick is out of place. Really, just hire an electrical contractor, and all of your problems have been solved) this castle is rapidly decaying and filled with mummies. The aesthetic actually reminds me of what Tobe Hooper did in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre just five years earlier. And that makes more sense for Dracula; wouldn’t a creature that cannot die be fascinated by death after a while? It is the one thing they will never experience.

The film has been set up as a sort of deconstruction of Dracula. So the rest really relates to it; the score is ancient and operatic, all of the performances do seem just as jittery, but then, it all seems normal when dealing with a creature like Dracula. The whole core is how a character like Dracula represents the sort of meeting point between man and nature. Why else, after Dracula invades a local town, would there be nothing but animals and ruins left in the streets? He has destroyed the facade of civilization.

That is what all of Herzog’s characters want to do, really. From Kaspar Hauser to the Grizzly Man, they were all just a sort of hybrid of nature and civilization, just showing how blurred that line really is. Of course, they all fail. Nosferatu may end on a happy note, in that Dracula is still destroyed. But then, of course the final shot….never mind. You should  see it for yourself; they make an enormous change to the novel’s narrative that I dare not reveal.

If I seem overly enthusiastic about the film, it is because I am tired of the vampire being treated as the next fad, given the same sort of attention as, say, a person on the cover of Tiger Beat. To be a horror icon, it is a requirement to Vampires were horror icons long before women decided that they wanted to sleep with them. Show them Nosferatu, and I guarantee that urge will go away.

And be replaced by what should have always been present – mortal dread.

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