This modern remake of Murnau's black and white classic does the original justice and then some. It has legs, or shall I say fingers of it's own. The super creepy original, a silent scream of a film released in 1911, has long been considered a masterpiece for its use of shadows and suspense. But German filmmaker Werner Herzog has several modern aspects of cinematography at his disposal, namely sound and color, to build upon this story of Count Dracula and thus he develops a more emotional motion picture.
Many moviegoers avoid the current horror genre, as the screen is too awash in red to merit anything but distaste. Traditional horror films were better at spooking people. They worked hard at building an ambiance, the dread was delivered a drop at a time, until the climatic overflow revealed the dreadful unexpected conclusion. This 1979 classic works on the same premise. Although I can't claim it to be a horrific ending, most of the film plays like a soft, dark, saturated nightmare. You run to get away, but you move in slow motion, and are helpless to shadows that surround you.
This film is based heavily on the 1897 Bram Stoker novel Dracula, although not as strict as an interpretation as Francis Ford Coppola's version in 1992. The original novel is written as a series of correspondences between English real estate lawyer Jonathan Harker and his fiancee Mina Murry. John has been dispatched to a remote castle in the Carpathian Mountains. This Nosferatu uses the same set-up, with the exception that the couple are married and living in Germany before he sets off.
One can not help wonder about potential contemporary parallels experienced at the time by a German director, lead actor and crew. Here we have a local "hero" sent East, into the dark, gloomy underbelly of Eastern Europe, only to return and destroy his town and culture in the process. (Remember the Berlin Wall was still up at this time.)
I love this film. It has the ambient tone and structuring of the original. But we get to hear the Count speak, and Klaus Kinski has to be recognized as the heart and soul of this endeavor. He is fantastic in this production. Even if he is one of the undead.