Shadow of the Vampire ★★★★★

Watched as part of the July 2018 Letterboxd Scavenger Hunt
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13. Friday the 13th! We have given luck a chance in this hunt, so let's do something unlucky: Watch a film starring an actor who has been nominated for more than one acting Oscar in their career without ever winning.

This is the second time I've watched this, which I decided to do again because I enjoyed it so much the first time; but as with a lot of movies of this type, I found my pleasure to have dropped a notch upon rewatching, because of now already being familiar with the peculiarities that make this film such a delight when you don't quite know what to expect. It's a supernatural thriller based on a "what if" concept -- namely, back when real-life German Expressionist film pioneer F.W. Murnau made the real-life Dracula ripoff Nosferatu in 1922, what if lead actor Max Schreck hadn't been a perfectly normal German theater veteran like he was in real life, but in actuality the real vampire that Dracula was based on, and that Murnau had agreed to let him slowly feast on the crew during production in return for capturing the most terrifying horror film of all time?

Obviously the standout here is Willem Dafoe as Schreck, who surprisingly brings a kind of sniveling, egotistical comedy to the role; his hungry vampire is a creature who hasn't socially interacted with other people in centuries, making him the exact kind of demanding, petulant diva you would expect from movie stars, even as his bug-eyed stares and bouts of sudden violence make him a true monster to behold. Meanwhile, perpetual Oscar bridesmaid John Malkovich (the person who inspired this particular scavenger hunt task pick) is unfortunately given little to do as director Murnau, besides deliver exposition and shout a lot through an old-timey megaphone. And for fans of the original real-life Nosferatu, you will be dazzled by the exact shot-for-shot recreations of the film that are accomplished here, especially when the film fades back into reality and they pull away to show the studio setup that accomplished it, making you often feel like you're actually there at that 1922 production. An amazing film to watch once, but that loses some of its charm upon multiple viewings, it comes recommended in this spirit.

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