Shadow of the Vampire is truly a strange movie. Basing itself on a true story, but throwing itself so far into fiction that it creates a weird spectacle of highly inaccurate but endearing storytelling motives and interesting character relations. John Malkovich and Willem Dafoe lead E. Elias Merhige’s Shadow of the Vampire. Produced by Nicolas Cage of all people, it’s a real lukewarm and forgettable piece of film.
A truly difficult movie to review, especially considering it is rather forgettable outside of a few scenes that feature Willem Dafoe. Expectedly superb, Dafoe excels in his role as Max Schreck, the elusive actor that plays Count Orlok. Unfortunately, it’s a performance that isn’t too memorable. The makeup and costume of the character far exceeds anything Dafoe can really do, aside from one scene where he gives us his best Ozzy Osbourne impression and eats a bat.
The performances continue to bore with the usually charming John Malkovich, who in recent years has slumped into bit-parts in Netflix adaptations. A sad shame, and a fall from grace even when compared to his most lukewarm outputs of the early 2000s. The same cannot be said for Willem Dafoe, who does what he can as the interesting portrayal of Schreck. Again, it’s forgettable and it’s really hard to review a performance when there’s nothing memorable about it.
There’s nothing spectacular about any aspect of this movie. Merhige’s direction is fairly bland, a standard of the times I suppose. He does nothing with what could’ve been an interesting, tense and potentially funny story. Wasting the likes of Malkovich, Dafoe and Udo Kier, Shadow of the Vampire says and does nothing, but is somewhat enjoyable for the short running time it takes up.
What should have been an interesting tale of the lengths people will go to in protecting their artistic vision is instead lost to cheap horror tropes (some of which really don’t work that well) and inexplicably boring recreations of the Nosferatu classic. It’s a sad shame and on reflection feels like a genuine waste of time with nothing really of merit throughout.