Cast: Max Schreck, Gustav von Wagenheim and Greta Schröder
Directed by F.W. Murnau
At times, amongst the long list of films to watch and endless possibilities that streaming services can provide, it can seem as if film is one medium that’s been around for an eternity. And yet, from every great drama to intriguing thriller, all of this has come about within only the last one hundred years, taking us all the way back to the topic of today’s review – F.W. Murnau’s 1922 classic horror film, ‘Nosferatu’.
Adapted from Bram Stoker’s iconic ‘Dracula’ novel, the story tells of the truly terrifying Count Orlok and his stalking of a small town estate agent who, along with his wife, is unfortunate enough to become the target of the Transylvanians’ hauntings. Perhaps best known from the iconic still of Count Orlok sneaking up the stairs of the innocent couple’s home, framed amongst the gloom of the night as a deeply unsettling silhouette, highlighting the shadow which has been cast over the town by his arrival, Murnau’s film is an early masterclass in what can be achieved through visual symbolism. The curled and decrepit hands of our antagonist frequently send a chill down the audience’s spine, providing so much horror in only a small detail, as if such a hand might reach over your own shoulder as you watch the film yourself.
Of course, a silent, black and white film from 1922 is probably not top of too many people to-watch lists, understandably so. However, the film isn’t too lengthy and delivers an impactful, suspenseful eighty minutes of classic horror. Through having to tell its story entirely visually – as well as with the help of the occasional title card – the storytellers work creatively throughout the runtime to convey complex emotions and unsettle the viewer on a great many occasions.
Depictions of Dracula, the popular cult figure who’s often recognised by their pale complexion and fang-like front teeth, are so familiar to us in this day and age that to go back and see such iconic details first being brought to the big screen is something truly impressive. The makeup department and set design work brilliantly on the film to establish each location as another innocent place for their haunting ‘Nosferatu’ to cast his shadow over.
It’s not often that a film turns 100, and with specialist showings being projected throughout the country, perhaps now is the time to take a chance on a film that you may not have previously considered sitting down and enjoying. There’s so much interesting filmmaking at play here, culminating in a great number of iconic sequences, as well as the excitement of seeing Nosferatu, perhaps the first true horror villain, creeping across the screen.