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Film4 FrightFest: Nosferatu review

The seminal classic gets a big-screen outing at Film4 FrightFest.

Nosferatu

Estate agent Thomas Hutter (Gustav Von Wangenheim) lives and works in the German city of Wisborg, his employer Knock (Alexander Granach) sends Hutter to Transylvania to see a new client called Count Orlok (Max Schreck), as the Count wishes to purchase a new house in the Wisborg area. Thomas leaves his wife Ellen (Greta Schroder ) with his close friends to safe guard her, as he embarks on his trek he discovers that many of the locals will not go near the Orlok castle due to strange happenings.

Finally arriving after a perilous journey, Hutter is shown inside and makes a deal with the Count for a new house. However he soon starts to feel rather ill and is given a bed to rest up in, yet Thomas cannot shake the feeling that there is a dark shadow constantly hanging over him. Hutter eventually see’s the Count’s crypt and deduces that he is a vampire aka Nosferatu, but being trapped in the castle means that Count Orlok can make his way to Wisborg, inside a coffin, to seek out Ellen and make her his next victim. Along the way his ability to cause death is of grave concern for the townsfolk.

Max Shreck’s take of the blood sucking vampire has become one of, if not the, quintessential version of Dracula to follow. Shreck’s ability to say so much with just a move of his eyes demonstrates what an underrated actor he truly was. His poisonous stare, his decrepit body & fingers slowly moving across each part of the body sends shivers down the spine and his way of biting into the necks of victims made us hold our breath as Shreck manages to linger a little too long before sinking his teeth. The most iconic scene, of the shadow of Orlok walking up the stairs of Ellen’s house never loses its ability to make us feel on edge, it’s an insanely creepy moment.

Aside from Shreck in the film, the rest of the cast are rather pedestrain and don’t bring much to the proceedings. Instead it’s left to the direction of F.W. Murnau to set this up as one of the greatest influential masterpieces of cinema. Murnau knows how to hold the frame just long enough on the evil deeds of Nosferatu to make us fear everything that is happening. He also builds the atmosphere through a lot of imagery, at the time of filming German expressionism was a new wave of artistic interpretation and this was included in the way that the characters moved and also the way the sets are designed – with sharp, jagged edges that look to be monstrous builds that strike fear into the heart

Nosferatu is a horror film unlike any other; it doesn’t go for the loud noises and big set pieces. Instead it builds tension on top of tension. It continued to haunt us all the way through and long after we had finished watching it. There would be no modern horror without this film, a masterpiece that is unparalleled in cinema.

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