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Shadow of the Vampire

Year: 2000
Director: E Elias Merhige
Cast: John Malkovich, Willem Dafoe, Cary Elwes, Catherine McCormack

A very interesting take on one of Hollywood's own myths, so old it's almost as much of a tradition as the Titanic sinkings and Pearl Harbour attacks that historical Hollywood has always explored. It's premise is the popular story that Max Shreck's performance as Nosferatu in F W Murnau's 1921 film was so convincing, people believed that Murnau had struck a deal with a real vampire.

Shreck (an almost unrecognisable Willem Dafoe in one of the performance of his career, brilliant as the animalistic, hissing vampire) takes method to ridiculous lengths – nobody is allowed to see him out of costume or makeup and all shooting must be done at night.

After the production is plagued with deaths, its is revealed that the maniacal Murnau (a typically passionate Malkovich) will do anything to get his movie – including telling real-life vampire Shreck that he can actually 'have' the leading lady (McCormack) in the climatic scene. Things draw to an inevitable conclusion as Shreck demands more blood and Murnau demands more performance (whatever the price) until the final allegorical sequence shows him dutifully filming and directing while Shreck goes rampant, killing what's left of the crew.

Part fantasy, part comment on the state of the film making industry, but all fantastic performances and an entertaining story built around an intriguing idea.

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