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Shadow of the Vampire (2000)



Average Rating: 7/10
Reviews Counted: 135
Fresh: 110 | Rotten: 25

Shadow of the Vampire is frightening, compelling, and funny, and features an excellent performance by Willem Dafoe.


Average Rating: 6.8/10
Critic Reviews: 34
Fresh: 28 | Rotten: 6

Shadow of the Vampire is frightening, compelling, and funny, and features an excellent performance by Willem Dafoe.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.4/5
User Ratings: 24,629

My Rating

Movie Info

The torturous production of the classic 1922 vampire film Nosferatu is recreated in this stylized account of director F.W. Murnau and his obsession with creating realistic horror by any means necessary -- even if those means include actual bloodletting. The film begins as Murnau (John Malkovich) is ready to take his unauthorized interpretation of the Bram Stoker tale on location in Czechoslovakia. There, the director has arranged for his cast and crew to live in the same castle in which they


Drama, Horror, Mystery & Suspense

Steven Katz

May 29, 2001


Lions Gate Releasing - Official Site External Icon

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All Critics (136) | Top Critics (34) | Fresh (110) | Rotten (25) | DVD (26)

The screenplay, by Steven Katz, suffers from arch, almost unspeakably theatrical dialogue, and, as Murnau, John Malkovich recites his lines as if monomania were synonymous with monotonic: He drains the drama of blood.

September 25, 2007 Full Review Source: Slate | Comment (1)
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Wholly absorbing and inspired in parts, this carefully crafted curio dares to suggest that Murnau made a Faustian pact with an actual vampire to play the title role in exchange for the neck of the film's leading lady at production's end.

September 25, 2007 Full Review Source: Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Intriguing, eccentric, sporadically entertaining tosh (but tosh all the same).

June 24, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's a marvelous, resonant joke that never quite succeeds: Stretches of the film resemble a Dario Argento horrorfest crossed with a Mel Brooks spoof.

September 26, 2002 Full Review Source: New York Magazine
New York Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Out of such dizzying layers of (un)reality, some sublime films have emerged. Nosferatu was one of them, and this is not -- but, c'mon, credit it with the old college try, a pretty decent effort.

March 22, 2002 Full Review Source: Globe and Mail
Globe and Mail
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This stupid and demeaning fantasy about the shooting of F.W. Murnau's 1922 masterpiece Nosferatu is a piece of postmodernist kitsch whose only redeeming quality is an enjoyably over-the-top, eye-rolling performance by Willem Dafoe.

February 7, 2001 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

shines forth as a labor of love

May 24, 2013 Full Review Source: Old School Reviews

Vampire satire has some creepy moments.

December 28, 2010 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

This strictly-for-the-cinéastes fantasy is wild, warped fun.

February 15, 2010 Full Review Source:

This is a dark, gothic, and creepy film with excellent performances from John Malkovich and Willem Dafoe.

April 29, 2009 Full Review Source: Cinema Crazed
Cinema Crazed

... [I]f you like your horror thoughtful and provoking, this is your movie.

June 25, 2008 Full Review Source: ESplatter

An imaginatively twisted lesson in film history and a glorious gothic comedy-drama.

September 25, 2007 Full Review Source: Film4

At best, this is a dawdling, toothless riff on a vastly superior film. At worst, it's character assassination.

September 23, 2007 Full Review Source: | Comment (1)

Shadow feels like a missed opportunity.

July 14, 2007 Full Review Source: Big Picture Big Sound
Big Picture Big Sound

Through layers of makeup depicting the rat-faced, undead Schreck, a vampire who turns not into a bat but, worse, a demanding prima donna, Dafoe doesn't go over the top, though he does plant his flag at the summit.

April 5, 2006 Full Review Source:

Incredibly entertaining even without knowledge of Nosferatu.

December 31, 2005 Full Review Source:

In this cookie cutter movie world, it's nice to see the occasional move that doesn't quite fit into a specific genre or can't easily be classified.

September 30, 2005 Full Review Source: Three Movie Buffs
Three Movie Buffs

What might have occurred during the filming of Nosferatu leaves one amused but confused about how much of Shadow is a spoof and how much is based in truth.

June 25, 2004 Full Review Source: Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY)

interesting and very good

January 7, 2004 Full Review Source:

Unusual and delightful.

May 22, 2003 Full Review Source: Film Blather
Film Blather

A sinister delight for the black at heart.

May 14, 2003
Palo Alto Weekly

Guarantees that you'll never watch the source material in the same way again.

April 16, 2003 Full Review Source: RTE Interactive (Dublin, Ireland) incredibly uneven flick.

February 25, 2003 Full Review Source: Reel Film Reviews
Reel Film Reviews

Audience Reviews for Shadow of the Vampire

Shadow of the Vampire is one of cinemas greatest little quirks. Urban legend has it that actor Max Schreck was in fact a real vampire when he played his role of Count Orlock (Dracula - but they didn't have the rights to call him that as Bram Stockers estate would not allow it). It was said that Schreck and director F.W. Murnau had a secret agreement, Murnau would reward Schreck with a human sacrifice and keep his Vampirism a secret if he would star in what would be the greatest and most realistic vampire movie ever made. As urban legend goes, it's one of the best in the history of cinema. To make it into a film was an act of risky genius. It was well received with critics but not many people went to see it. It made just over £200,000 which in movieland is a disaster. Personally I've not heard many people say nice things about it but now I've seen it I have to disagree. I love the idea and being a fan of the original (and the Herzog remake) I have to say I found it to be a great new chapter in the ongoing development of the original idea. I'm a sucker for films about films but not so much of mixing fantasy and reality. When doing so it is important to do so tastefully, with respect and creatively. Shadow of the Vampire does all that and more and is well worth a watch. Maybe give the original a watch first though for full effect.
January 21, 2014

Super Reviewer

If there is a good reason to watch this film, then it's Willem Dafoe's spine shivering performance. From his body language and disturbing smile, to his maniacal voice, Dafoe delivers a performance that shouldn't be forgotten very easily. There was a particular scene that was priceless; of how Dafoe's character was hit by the sun, his reaction was so convincing, its very difficult to ignore how powerful Willem Dafoe made this Oscar worthy performance, for which I personally believe he should've won.
April 25, 2013
Samuel Riley
Samuel Riley

Super Reviewer

Not quite sure what to think of this one. At some parts it's extremely interesting but at other times I feel I'm watching a film written by a 5 year old, especially towards the end. I don't really know what it's trying to say. A good cast and an intriguing look into old time filmmaking with Malkovich's performance unusual as per usual but the real stand out of the film is most certainly Dafoe. I didn't even recognize him at first but his performance really is spectacular and the film is worth watching for that alone. I'm not sure what it is about this film but it was strangely good.
June 20, 2012

Super Reviewer

Year 1921:

German director Frederich Wilhelm Murnau set out to make a film on Bram Stoker's famous Vampire fiction, "Dracula". He however failed to acquire the rights to use the novel's story. Unwilling to give up on the project, Murnau made a few changes here and there including the characters' names. Notably, Count "Dracula" became "Count Orlock"! For the role of Orlock, he hired a Max Schreck, an actor, who was usually aloof on the sets. Schreck went on to deliver one of the most realistic and famous performances of his career as Count Orlock, while Murnau established himself as a great director who made one of the finest adaptations of Stoker's novel, widely regarded as the best existing film adaption, that is "Nosferatu" (1922).

They say, Shreck was totally dedicated to his character/role and that he played it very believably! Furthermore, his contemporaries have reported that Shreck was a loner and lived in a remote world and liked walking through dark forests! All these mannerisms of his had supposedly given rise to an Urban Legend that Schreck was actually a vampire!!

Year 2000:

Screenwriter Steven Katz and Director E. Elias Merhige decide to take this Urban Legend a few steps further by basing their own vampire movie on it! "Shadow of the Vampire" tells a fictionalized story of the ambitious but troubled production of Murnau's silent horror masterpiece, "Nosferatu". John Malkovich stars as F. W. Murnau, who along with his crew starts the filming process.

The crew, even the producer Albin Grau (Udo Kier) are unaware about who's going to play the central character of Count Orlock. They are then told that his name is Max Schreck, who has been a stage actor with the Reinhold Company. Murnau states that Schreck likes to stay in character and will only appear in full make-up and he insists on shooting only at night. He has already reached Slovakia where they plan to shoot most of the film, in order to get a feel of the air!

While an initial meeting with Schreck (Willem Dafoe) clearly brings about a sense of unnerving discomfort to some of the crew, others commend the great manner in which he stays in character and looks and behaves as frightening as his character!

The chosen location is an isolated one, yet the orthodox locals seem to give the director a problem. Meanwhile, Schreck keeps making demands of his own and becomes increasingly difficult for Murnau. Cameraman Wolfgang Mueller suffers from some kind of a breakdown; he has to be replaced by Fritz Arno Wagner (Cary Elwes) who is specially flown in. Amidst all the problems associated and the rest of the crew's growing suspicion and fear about the true identity of Schreck, Murnau makes desperate attempts to finish his project...

While the idea of "Shadow of the Vampire" is interesting and the director has roped in two of the film biz's extremely talented actors, John Malkovich and Willem Dafoe, somehow something is still missing somewhere! Now, we are given that the film's story is a "fictionalized" account. In that case, the screenwriter could have taken still more liberties to pack some more meat in this venture. This DOES NOT mean that they should've resorted to the increasingly boring, usual cheap thrills/gimmicks which most horror movies are rife with nowadays. Then again, perhaps it is the limitation of the script then...maybe there was no way in which more substance could be added to the film without it treading the oft-trodden path of triteness!

In fact the director does us a big favour by keeping it subtle and doesn't add too much gore/shocks/jolts from out of nowhere/screams, etc.
So, almost casually, Dafoe's character demonstrates how he is "living" the character, to two of the crew members, Albin and Henrik (John Aden Gillet), the screenwriter of Murnau's film, in a particularly important scene in the film.

The director relies on the atmosphere, then, of the set that he uses, the lighting arrangement, the dark ruins where he does the filming, and Willem Dafoe's Max Schreck character amongst other things to invoke a feeling of terror. There are some clever scenes which come across as slightly funny as well as terrifying at the same time! The director also pays homage to the silent film era by use of inter-tiles in the narrative, as well as the iris shot. He intersperses footage from the original "Nosferatu" with the scenes that his Murnau character shoots in this film. It is almost difficult to tell the original footage from the one filmed in the film!

Dan Jones provides an adequately chilling background score and complements the unsettling atmosphere created by Merhige.

"Shadow of the Vampire" then mostly belongs to its two main actors, Willem Dafoe and John Malkovich. While Malkovich delivers a class act as F. W. Murnau, a film-maker who is hellbent on finishing his big film without any compromise, Willem Dafoe almost outdoes the late Max Schreck with his spoof-like rendition of Max Schreck/Count Orlock! It is a Godly act worth a standing ovation as his Max Schreck character in this film mirrors the late Max Schreck's own dedication to the role of Orlock, with Dafoe being almost unrecognizable as we know him and delivering a knock-out performance. He definitely deserved to win the Oscar he was nominated for. Watch him in this and you will know what "getting into the skin of the character" actually means!

If only the film were as worthy of praise as the lead performance in it, we would probably have a vampire masterpiece with one of the most original premises in the genre. This is a result of keeping things subtle, though, so it is more like an inevitable restriction on the script!

Regardless, "Shadow of the Vampire" is a decent film and worth a watch for some of the reasons mentioned above and if those reasons aren't good enough for you, then you can certainly depend on Willem Dafoe to be the sole reason to check it out.
January 8, 2011
Aditya Gokhale
Aditya Gokhale

Super Reviewer

    1. FW. Murnau: Go ahead! Eat the writer! That will leave you explaining how your character gets to Bremen!
    – Submitted by Francis L (2 years ago)
    1. FW. Murnau: If it's not in frame, it doesn't exist!
    – Submitted by Francis L (2 years ago)
    1. FW. Murnau: Why him, you monster? Why not the... script girl?
    2. Max Schreck: Oh. The script girl. I'll eat her later.
    – Submitted by Francis L (2 years ago)
View all quotes (3)

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