Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror (1922) Review

Director: F.W. Murnau

Genre(s): Fantasy, Horror

Runtime: 94 minutes

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

IMDb Page

One of the greatest of all German Expressionist films, the silent vampire movie Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror (also known by its original German tile: Nosferatu, Eine Symphonie des Grauens) still has the power to induce nightmares. It may not be scary in a close-your-eyes-from-the-unrelenting-terror sort of way, but this timeless Gothic classic is creepy in ways that most productions can only dream of. An unauthorized adaptation of the 1897 Bram Stoker novel Dracula, this chiller tells the tale of vampire Count Orlok (Max Schreck) deciding to purchase a house next to real estate agent Thomas Hutter (Gustav von Wangenheim) and his wife Ellen (Greta Schröder).

Of course, the big highlight of the flick is the vampire himself, masterfully played by Max Schreck. He looks like nothing from this world. He doesn’t look like a guy in make-up, but like an actual monster. This movie is chockful of iconic imagery, but the most famous shot is that of Orlok’s shadow ascending the wall near a staircase during the finale. It’s one of the most breathtaking moments in cinema history. Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror may have a couple of slow-moving passages, but it can also fire on all cylinders when it needs to.

Sometimes feeling like a fairy tale from Hell, this film has an eerie, sinister, silent energy. It’s pretty oneiric, sometimes having a wonderful sense of dream logic (I guess vampires can teleport through closed doors now). The morbid, unnerving atmosphere is amplified by the decision to use decrepit and crumbling locations to film on. It gives the work a “lived in” feeling. The special effects are primitive, but this only works in the motion picture’s favor.

This movie was remade as Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979), but this silent version is vastly superior. A lot of Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror rides on its villain, and it excels here. He looks like a walking, talking incarnation of Death. While not my favorite silent film (that would be Metropolis [1927]), this one also makes a good introduction to the world of silent cinema for those unaccustomed to that style. This is mandatory viewing for film buffs.

My rating is 8 outta 10.

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