Review: Nosferatu (PG)

A reworking of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Nosferatu offers a taste of pure horror from a time before literature’s vampires became corrupted by the cinema.

F W Murnau’s icy chiller takes real estate agent Hutter (Gustav von Wangenheim) on a journey into the Carpathian Mountains and into the castle of Graf Orlok, from bourgeois morality to an encounter with the sexual power of the unconscious.

Few movie monsters have been as memorable as Max Schreck’s Graf Orlok, a shaved, cadaverous, two-legged rodent with bat ears and claw-like nails stalking the decks of a ship and Hutter’s Bremen home where his wife (Greta Schröder) awaits her vampire lover. Often selected by modern composers as a project for a new soundtrack – this silent expressionistic experiment remains as subversive and avant-garde as it was when it was made in 1922. Nosferatu dates from a period of cinema when vampires were still scary. There is something deeply unpleasant about Orlok’s physical appearance, something folkloric and nasty.

Nosferatu is on re-release for Halloween. It is also playing with live accompaniment by Neil Brand as part of the Gothic Film Festival at Kirkstall Abbey, Leeds (Oct 31-Nov 3).