Nosferatu instilled in the mass audience the fear for vampires before the blood-thirsty creatures became a cult, before the story of Dracula was buried alive in clichés, jokes, marketing and more than 35 following movies.
And no, I’m not talking about that abomination against humanity known as Twilight, because even in the later – and better – performances, from Bela Lugosi to Cristopher Lee to Frank Langella to Gary Oldman, the vampire comes across like a flamboyant actor, instead of a man suffering from a dread curse.
This happens instead through the acting of Max Schreck, the actor who portrays the character of Nosferatu in such a unique, inimitable way that he’s able to convey an overall sense of dread.
Which is something exceptional, considering that Nosferatu is a silent, black and white movie, where the narration is carried by slides.
It’s, indeed, obvious to state that the movie is old and quite difficult to judge through modern standards. Some might think, for instance, that the acting is mostly laughable and over-the-top, but that’s a consequence of the strong influence theater had played on cinema in its early stages.
Therefore, this film must be observed as a piece of cinema history – and, in my opinion – the first, fundamental milestone of horror cinema and, thus, its value should be measured in terms of the impact it had in those years.
None was reported as fainting while the movie was playing – contrarily to what the production company claim today in their taglines about flicks that wouldn’t scare a toddler – but it nevertheless had a huge shock value among the viewers at the time.
However, Nosferatu contains the seeds of recurrent themes in the following better horror movie: the fear for what is different, the loneliness of being excluded from the society, the relationship between mortality and immortality.
Also, from a technical standpoint, the movie directed by the German Expressionist F. W. Murnau presents a few astoundingly modern elements, such as the use of shadows to create tension and sense of threaten.
Nevertheless, other techniques look obviously ridiculous nowadays. For example, the editing doesn’t hold up anymore and seems very sloppy.
All in all, though, Nosferatu is the first, great horror movie in cinema history and, although quite aged, it’s still inspiring numerous directors working today. Give it a take if you’re passionate of cinema. Cheers!