For all its technical wizardry (including meticulously crafted iris shots), eerie chiaroscuro effects (the shadow in the stairwell is indelibly etched in my memory), and virtuosic performances (particularly Max Schreck in the lead role of Count Orlok), Nosferatu fails to heat my blood or stimulate my mind to the extent that some other iconic, but probably less well-known, movies in the silent horror genre have, like the more subtle and cerebral The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (one of my favorite all-time films) or the metaphysical Swedish film The Phantom Carriage. Is Nosferatu a very good and wonderfully atmospheric film? Yes, I think that too is beyond doubt. It’s just that technique aside, it doesn’t seem to have all that much substance to it—you know, the sort of stuff that keeps you up at night pondering multiple levels of meaning. I’m not quite seeing the greatness of it.
Swedish cinema is sometimes considered synonymous with the films of Ingmar Bergman, but even a genius must have his influences. In the beginning, there was Victor Sjöström’s eerie landmark silent film The Phantom Carriage, which elevated early horror to new heights of surrealistic complexity.
I’m not an angel. That’s too bad. Because there’s something I really need to take up with God so that He can publish a biblical addendum, something that occurred to me while watching Seven. It’s simply not enough; an eighth deadly sin is needed: “smugness.” That’s the sin made by so many filmmakers. That’s the sin David Fincher committed in assuming that this slogging detective drama constitutes entertainment.
Both as a writer and director, Frank Darabont seems to have an affinity for adapting Stephen King’s stories to the screen. He’s only performed both those functions for three feature-length films—The Shawshank Redemption (1994), The Green Mile (1999), and The Mist (2007)—but all three have met with well-deserved general and critical acclaim. I would agree, however, with those who’ve argued that The Mist, based on a King novella, is not at the level of Darabont’s previous two directorial efforts.
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari may not be the first horror film of all time, but it undoubtedly is one of the first to have a major influence on later movies in the genre. Directed by Robert Wiene (whose other films include Fear and Raskolnikow), Caligari exemplifies the expressionist style of silent movie-making that gained a foothold in Germany in the early 1920s and that would inspire the better-remembered Nosferatu (1922) based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Though not adapted from a work of literature, Caligari set the bar in capturing the macabre on camera, managing to be both cerebral and mesmerizingly creepy.
When’s the last time you saw a talking cow? How about one that said “you’re dead fucked”? If you’re not schizophrenic, an answer other than “never” to these questions would probably mean that, like the steroidal jock Bluto (Robert Hoffman) in Shrooms, you were hallucinating on one of several mind-bending drugs. Well, it’s certainly no secret which one’s at issue here—the title eponymously informs us that “magic mushrooms” are the film’s psychedelic of choice.