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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Nosferatu Remake Finds Director

Something that’s become abundantly clear in recent years is that remakes, reboots, reimaginings, and all other sundry manner of “RE” terms for bringing back old recognizable franchises, aren’t just a passing trend but a full on cultural force.  For the most part it’s not a surprising shift as the Internet age has helped a lot of older media franchises persist in public memory without really exposing newer generations to the originals, allowing for cheap retreads of classics to seem fresh and new while also milking lucrative nostalgia dollars from completionists fans.  It’s a viscous cycle to be sure but sometimes the system works as with the sequel/reboot Mad Max: Fury Road, the rebooted Hannibal show on NBC, or the highly underrated remake of The Crazies.  My point is that revisitation seems to work best for works of horror which is why I’m kind of on board with the recently announced remake/reboot of Nosferatu

 This reboot of the classic silent film is coming to us from newer director Robert Egger.  Egger hasn’t done much previous work but for a couple of shorts and has more experience as an art and costume director under his belt.  However, he was responsible for The Witch, an apparently amazing horror film that ran the Sundance indie circuit earlier this year and probably landed him the job of rebooting the first cinematic vampire.  In case you’re wondering why it’s taken so long to get a new Nosferatu on screen it’s that the rights to the property have been tied up in copyright limbo for years and years.  That’s honestly a pretty ironic state of affairs for the film as Nosferatu was famous as a rip-off film.  Originally Nosferatu was meant to be a direct adaptation of Dracula but F.W. Murnau was unable to secure the rights to the Dracula story so made up a few changes to suit his version.  Despite Murnau’s changes the original was actually sued over its similarities to Dracula.  

There have been revisitations of Nosferatu in the past but this is the most recent take on the film.  Previously in 1979 famed German director Werner Herzog directed a film called Nosferatu The Vampyre, which, while not a direct remake, was visual ode to the original silent film.  In 2000 Willem Dafoe starred in a very enjoyable, if now weirdly forgotten, fictional account of the film called Shadow of the Vampire.  Shadow of the Vampire imagined that the actor playing Count Orlock (the lead villain of Nosferatu) was actually a vampire himself in real life that Murnau, played by John Malkovich, had somehow convinced to be in his film.  It’s a surreal experience of a film but I highly recommend it for anyone who’s never heard of it. 
As for Egger’s adaptation, I haven’t seen The Witch or any of Egger’s previous work so I really don’t know what to expect from him.  The biggest thing that I’m left wondering is how much we really need an actual remake of Nosferatu.  The basic story isn’t that different from Dracula in a meaningful way and we’ve had plenty of Dracula over the years as well.  I feel it’d be more important to copy the visual aesthetics of Nosferatu, the chilling eeriness of the whole film, rather than anything else.  It’s an unfortunate truth that the vampire genre really doesn’t have any standard barers in terms of aesthetics.  

Classics of the genre like Nosferatu, Dracula, Near Dark, Interview With a Vampire, and even Let The Right One In haven’t really impacted our consciousness of how vampires should be visualized, certainly nowhere near as much as the triple punch of Blade, Buffy, and Underworld have.  We’ve seen some resurgence in recent years towards the Nosferatu school of vampire design, most recently in The Strain, so if this new reboot gets us a greater breadth of scope for the visual depiction of vampires on screen I’m all for it. 

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