A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that despite Shadow of the Vampire'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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the way that Murnau and Schreck were willing to sacrifice anyone around them to get what they wanted in Shadow of the Vampire. 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?
What does 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?
- In theaters: January 26, 2001
- On DVD or streaming: May 29, 2001
- Cast: Cary Elwes, John Malkovich, Willem Dafoe
- Director: E. Elias Merhige
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 92 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: some sexuality, drug content, violence and language
- Last updated: April 12, 2021
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