A real estate agent is sent to Transylvania to help a bizarre count purchase
a house, only to learn the count is a vampire who goes after his wife.
Directed by F.W. Murnau
Written by Henrik Galeen
Starring Max Schreck, Gustav von Wangenheim,
Greta Schröder, Alexander Granach, Gustav Boltz
Based on the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker
Nosferatu is the original vampire movie template. It'll be 100 years old next year, and in many ways it still holds up. Max Schreck's performance is genuinely eerie and the score is absolutely stellar. But this was early cinema, where every country was still working out the kinks regarding how film was made. With that in mind, Nosferatu is hardly a good representation for the story of Dracula. It skimps heavily on character, drags out the middle like a freshly-painted wall about to dry, and is overacted to hell by pretty much everyone else. But Murnau's dedication to production design, makeup, and cinematography speaks for itself at this point. Without Nosferatu, an entire subgenre doesn't exist.
Our hero is real estate agent Hutter (Wangenheim). He is sent to a castle in Transylvania to assist in a land purchase with the bizarre Count Orlok (Schreck). He soon discovers Orlok is a vampire, who then sets his sights on Hutter's wife. The lull of the film is Orlok's journey to Hutter's village via ship, which takes up most of the movie for some reason. Story isn't really among this film's strengths, but the production was ahead of its time by decades and you can still tell.
Nosferatu is one of the first horror films in cinema history. For that alone, the film commands a deep appreciation. Just knowing how many films owe their existence to this one makes me smile. It does skimp on story and characters, but Murnau wasn't content to just point his camera and film. He wanted to showcase a strange new world, and he knew that cinema was going to be a competitive new medium with opportunities for longevity. That's why we're still talking about Nosferatu today.