Shadow of the Vampire



Vampire satire has some creepy moments.
  • Review Date: May 8, 2003
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2001
  • Running Time: 92 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages
Not applicable

Comic but scary vampire scenes, characters killed.


Brief nudity, scenes of decadence.


Brief strong language.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Characters abuse alcohol and drugs, scene of morphine-induced hysteria.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that despite this movie's comic and satiric tone, there are some creepy vampire moments. Schreck drinks a bat's blood. There are some decadent performers in a nightclub, and some characters use drugs and behave in a manner that may be very upsetting. There's brief nudity and some strong language.

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What's the story?

The story of Dracula has been filmed dozens of times, but one of the most unforgettable is the silent German film, Nosferatu. Director F.W. Murnau was not able to get permission to film Dracula, so he changed all the names and went ahead with it anyway. His title character was so bizarre and creepy that there were even rumors that Murnau found a real vampire to play the part. SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE plays on this rumor. Murnau (John Malkovich) finds a real vampire to play the part. The director must race to finish filming before his star finishes off the cast and crew. The vampire (Willem Dafoe), introduced as "Max Schreck," observes to Murnau that "you and I are not so different." Both are single-minded in pursuit of their goals, regardless of the consequences for others. Both have a kind of everlasting life. But there are differences, too. Light is what makes Murnau's form of everlasting life possible -- he is always seeking the light he needs to be able to tell his story through film. Schreck is always hiding from light, which can destroy him.

Is it any good?


The highlight of Shadow of the Vampire is Dafoe's performance as Schreck. Unrecognizable under all the make-up, he manages to be witty, menacing, charming, and even sympathetic. Malkovich has the intensity for Murnau and is excellent shouting his direction to his cast and crew. English comedian Eddie Izzard is fine as the leading man. The art direction is superb, especially when we see them filming and the picture fades into a re-creation of the black and white original.

The movie has some witty jabs at filmmakers of all eras. Murnau responds to one crisis by saying that "It may be advantageous because it makes the crew very edgy and I like that," and there is a very funny exchange with Schreck about which members of the crew may be expendable. It makes some good points, but ultimately just stops rather than ends.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about what it means to say that someone is "chasing an altogether different ghost." Does everyone chase a ghost of some kind? Which ghosts were Murnau and Schreck chasing? Families will want to talk about the way that Murnau and Schreck were willing to sacrifice anyone around them to get what they wanted. The leading lady tells Murnau that live audiences give her life while a camera takes it out of her. How does that differ from Murnau's view?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:January 26, 2001
DVD release date:May 29, 2001
Cast:Cary Elwes, John Malkovich, Willem Dafoe
Director:E. Elias Merhige
Studio:Universal Pictures
Run time:92 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:some sexuality, drug content, violence and language

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Adult Written bymetal321 July 7, 2009

Vile and Sadistic, Utterly without any Redeeming Value

I am usually the sort that yawns at violence in movies, but I thought the scene toward the end of this movie where the vampire murders a woman was incredibly violent and disturbing. I would call it a kind of pornographic violence for people who like to see women dying in a violent and sadistic manner. I am also shocked that you do not mention this in your 'need to know' up above. Instead you talk about it being "satiric, comic, and creepy." I don't quite see how any of those descriptions fit the vile ending of this movie and I think many parents will be shocked and feel mislead by this unbelievable description of this disgusting movie.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Adult Written byBestPicture1996 October 26, 2014

Alternative history movie is interesting!

This film has a very limited audience...what casual moviegoer is going to rush out to see a fictional behind the scenes story about a 1922 silent movie? However, being a movie buff, it appealed to me, and it seemed creative! It was, and the hype about Willem Dafoe's role as Max Shreck is so much fun to watch, he just gets lost in it, playing a vampire playing an actor playing a vampire, it's pretty meta! The cinematography is interesting, and the makeup of course on Dafoe is incredible. It's an homage to the original "Nosferatu" and to silent movies in general, and even though I wanted a little more from it, it is an original and interesting film in the vampire genre!
What other families should know
Too much sex
Teen, 15 years old Written byenglishrider4546 April 9, 2008

An Atrocious Interpretation of a Great Filmmaker

Perhaps I might be bias, considering that I am a great fan of F.W. Murnau and the original Nosferatu. Maybe I just didn't care for Malkovich, for whatever reason, I flat out HATED this movie. The story was a nightmare, with a complete destruction of, in my opinion, what could have been a great forshadowing. Malkovich gave Murnau, a great, innovative filmaker, a psychotic, controling sense, with a twisted, dark respect for his art. Dafoe's Shreck is insane, and dark under a magnificient make up job. The ending is a nightmare, with no climax, and a terrible bout of extreme violence. In conclusion, I thought it was an AWFUL adaptation of one filmmaker's journey. If the storyline interested you, however, I highly recommend the original Nosferatu, a masterpiece all in its own.


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