ARROW IN THE HEAD REVIEWS

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Shadow of the Vampire (2001)
Written by: The Arrow
Director: E. Elias Merhige

Starring:
John Malkovich/Murnau
Willem Dafoe/Schreck
Udo Kier/Albin
Catherine McCormack/Greta
7 10
PLOT-CRUNCH
(Malkovich) is shooting his classic vampire flick "Nosferatu". He’s willing to go to any length to finish his project and capture reality. Was he nutty enough to hire a real vampire to achieve that goal? You bet he was! BRING ON DAFOE!!!
THE LOWDOWN
This movie is a big "what if". It uses a true story as a springboard to travel through a fantastic route. This movie is way more artsy than I thought it would be and it will probably take multiple viewings to appreciate it to its full worth. Here’s what I got from my first watch. First off, Dafoe rocks the boat! He’s the main reason to see this film and the Oscars should kiss his arse for his astounding performance. The flick looks great: lots of shadows, wonderful camera movements and great locations. The film was shot on location in Luxembourg (no sets here) and it milks its creepy castles for all they’re worth. The film also has a wonderful sense of humor. Seeing Murnau (Malkovich) direct his actors is hilarious! I loved the overacting! One scene that sticks out in my mind is where Gustav (Izzard) is being directed by Murnau but at the same time is feeling weary of his vampire co-star (who’s sharing a scene with him). You see his mind going all over the place and it made me chuckle. I also loved the crew’s get up (goggles and scientist outfits), you would think that their costumes were a figment of the screenwriters imagination but I heard that’s exactly what Murnau and his crew wore in reality. Another plus is seeing retakes of classic scenes from Nosferatu, very groovy, the director did his homework.

What I didn’t dig was the characters. I never got into them (except Dafoe who’s just f**king weird). Murnau is an obsessive a-hole here and seeing different levels to his personality would have made him more interesting. The rest of the cast have disposable adults written on their foreheads. I didn’t care about any of them. The film also makes the obvious "horror movie" mistakes. The crew sees Schreck eat a bat, people are disappearing and Murnau eventually reveals that Schreck is not an actor. What does the crew do? They stick around to shoot the flick. I would have been out of there after the bat snack! The kill scenes are very bland, devoid of suspense or impact (makes you wonder why they even bothered) and the scares are non-existent.

So basically this is a good looking, moody flick with one-dimensional characters. The setting, the subject matter and the no holds barred show by Dafoe makes it happen but the film sticks to one theme (Murnau filming his movie at any cost) and lightly touches the secondary ones. The mystery (the movie makes it obvious early on that Schreck is a real vamp), sexuality, characters, scares and suspense needed more emphasis. The film is a one track pony and the thrill factor never goes up or down but I will admit that its oddness and novel approach fascinated me. Bat anyone?
GORE
Extra light blood and Dafoe’s butt ugly mug.
ACTING
John Malkovich (Murnau) is effective as the obsessive director. His wide eyed performance came through. Willem Dafoe (Schreck) is unrecognizable as the human leech. The way he moves, his facial ticks and the creepy voice make him the ideal vamp. He’s not the romantic fool Dracula was, that’s fer sure. Eerie looking Udo Kier (Albin) rocks again and plays off Malkovich very well. Catherine McCormack (Greta) does what she has to do. Her character is very thin. Cary Elwes (Fritz) still can’t do accents and lets his blonde mane do most of the acting. Eddy Izzard (Gustav) brings some humor to his part. It's hilarious to see him do scenes with Schreck.
T & A
Catherine McCormack shows off her tatas and Willem Dafoe shows off his bald head.
DIRECTING
Lots of style here. I loved the play between black 'n white and color, the eerie lighting and the graceful camera movements. I was disappointed in the lack of suspense the movie had. I mean the kill scenes are just there. The architecture of the castle is used properly and Elias doesn’t hold back with the groovy shots. High on style, low on tension.
SOUNDTRACK
An extremely spooky score that fits the vibe of the film..
BOTTOM LINE
The storyline is way kool, the movie looks great but they could’ve developed everything so much more. I still recommend you check it out and make up your own mind. It’s definitely original and deserves to be seen. Dafoe is worth the price of admission alone. Now I’m gonna go rent Nosferatu.
BULL'S EYE
The real life Murnau died in 1931 at the age of 42 in a car accident. After his death, rumors of his homosexuality started to surface. The tabloid press went as far as saying that Murnau was going down on his valet (14 year old Philippino boy) in the car when the accident took place.

Nicolas Cage co-produced this bad boy.

I met E. Elias Merhige and he’s a very kool dude. I still can’t get over the slick leather jacket he wuz wearing. I WANT ONE!!!
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