Nosferatu the Vampyre Review
Synopsis:Jonathan and Lucy live in Wismar and the Count wants a house there. Varna is a port on the Black Sea, close to Dracula's castle.
Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979), aka Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (1979), it’s not every day that you get to see a real-life vampire in action. Sure, there’s the occasional run in with the kid that took The Lost Boys (1987) a little too seriously, but an actual vampire is rare. If you dare to experience such an encounter, I’d suggest watching Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979). Not only is this a beautifully shot movie, but it also depicts the infamous Count Dracula in a way that you feel such a creature could actually exist. Doesn’t hurt that manic actor and possibly a real vampire, Klaus Kinski plays the Count. These factors alone should add up to a modern masterpiece, but unfortunately, they are overshadowed by a rather boring retelling of a famous story.
Nosferatu the Vampyre is both an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s classic horror novel and a remake of the unsettling F.W. Murnau film Nosferatu (1922). Werner Herzog pays immense homage to the original film while adding his own grounded style. Where Murnau’s feels more mystical and ghoulish, Herzog creates a more realistic version of the vampire. The major components of this realistic portrayal are the lack of special effects, with exception to the makeup for Dracula, and Klaus Kinski’s subdued acting. Herzog could have easily added effects so we could see Dracula transform into a bat, or rat, or maybe even a wolf. Instead, he asks the audience to follow the dramatic events of the story and not marvel in a special effects extravaganza.
Although I applaud Werner Herzog for this, I can’t allow myself to say it’s great. Simply stated, this movie is boring. I had a hard time watching it, and it’s not because of the horror, but because it drags. Most people that have seen or will see this movie are already familiar with the story of Dracula. So, you kind of just go through the motions while nothing but a couple of twists are offered. John (Bruno Ganz) goes to Transylvania, ignoring the townspeople he stays with Dracula, Dracula gets a hard on for John’s wife (Isabelle Adjani); he finds out what Dracula is, John’s wounded, Dracula gets on a boat with caskets filled with rats, the rest kind of drags out till it ends.
I won’t spoil the twists that Werner Herzog used to distinguish his story from the original Nosferatu, but I will say that they are interesting. Sadly, it was too little too late for me. I couldn’t help but think about Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992). How that had all the fantastical elements of the book, employed imaginative special effects, and still sucks you in through the writing. It is, in my opinion, the ultimate Dracula movie. Sure Keanu Reeves is horrible and Winona Ryder isn’t exactly Meryl Streep, but it is a terrifying movie with an interesting story.
I hate to knock this movie because I really like Werner Herzog, but just like our presidential choices, not all of them can be winners. The strengths of Nosferatu the Vampyre lie upon the shoulders of Klaus Kinski and cinematographer Jorg Schmidt-Reitwein. If it weren’t for their performances, this film would be even less acknowledged in the pantheon of horror.
I recommend Nosferatu the Vampyre to people who are vampire obsessed, love Werner Herzog, or just want to examine some well-done cinematography. If you’re a casual movie watcher, maybe skip out on this one.
2 Klaus Kinski Fingernails outta 5
About Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)
AKA: Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht
Runtime: 107 minutes
Genre: Horror, Drama, Fantasy
Total Avg. Votes: 7
Writers: Werner Herzog, Bram Stoker
Director: Werner Herzog