Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922)

Directed by F.W. Murnau [Other horror films: Satanas (1920), Der Bucklige und die Tänzerin (1920), Der Januskopf (1920), Schloß Vogelöd (1921) Faust: Eine deutsche Volkssage (1926)]

I can’t say for sure, but this may be only the third time I’ve seen this German classic. There’s not a specific reason for this, aside from maybe the fact the print I own on DVD is a bit rough (thanks Mill Creek), but it’s also true that while I enjoy some ideas and aspects about Nosferatu, I’ve never really loved it as a whole.

Throwing in the whole plague sub-plot was a nifty idea, I think. Especially given that I’m writing this while many are still on moderate lock-down due to Covid-19, the diseases’ impact on the characters (while somewhat negligible as far as the story is concerned, and does more to help with the ominous atmosphere, to be honest) brought a bit of reality to the film. That scene in which bodies are being taken out through the narrow streets in particular was an effective one.

Count Orlac himself (played by none other than Max Schreck) didn’t have that much in the way of character, but definitely made his presence known. He was awkward as fuck, but everyone has their vices, and hey, I don’t have a castle in the land of phantoms, thieves, and ghosts, so maybe he’s doing something right. Schreck was great here, be him creeping up stairs or standing ramrod straight in a split second (both highly effective scenes).

I couldn’t help but feel for both Gustav von Wangenheim (who was also in Schattan – Eine nächtliche Halluzination) and Greta Schröder, as both of their characters went through the wringer. I felt legitimately dismayed as Schröder’s unhappiness at being away so long from her husband, and I enjoyed both of their performances, though I do think the ending maybe could have been extrapolated on a bit.

The print I watched this time around was pretty nice (it was on TCM, so could you imagine anything but?), with a nice tint, solid score, and all-around pleasant presentation. I just wished the inter-titles had been in German as opposed to English, but that’s a personal preference which has no impact on my enjoyment.

Overall, I don’t doubt at all that Nosferatu is a classic, and rightfully so. The effects were pretty good for the time, and some scenes, like I said, still increase suspense to this very day. It’s just never been a personal favorite of mine (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari was always more my vibe).


Häxan (1922)


Directed by Benjamin Christensen [Other horror films: Hævnens Nat (1916), The Haunted House (1928), Seven Footprints to Satan (1929), House of Horror (1929)]

Häxan is a deeply interesting movie. Part documentary, part dramatized sequences of things from torturing the confession of witchcraft out of women and covens of old women crafting potions, Häxan isn’t a movie that you’re soon to forget.

Throughout the film, we’re given some information and historical context for the belief in the devil and, more specifically, witchcraft and the trials of those accused of such black magic. These portions, while to some may seem dry, are pretty interesting, especially from a modern-day perspective. At times, sure, you might wish they focused more on the dramatized sequences as opposed to a lecture, but I thought it was balanced decently well, a section on middle age torture devices standing out.

There’s some wild stuff in this movie, too. Perhaps not surprisingly gruesome given the subject matter, there’s all manner of torture and depictions of Hell through the film, and while the demons and Devil have a certain whimsical feel to them, there are still some horrific stuff being done.

Many of the special effects are pretty cool, especially a sequence showing witches flying over a small village. Some of the costumes are a bit ridiculous, but at the same time, it’s a Swedish movie from 1922, so I’m not inclined to judge that too harshly.

There are a few of the dramatized scenes that run a bit long, I think, without much interesting content, and the movie does run an hour and 45 minutes (at least the print I saw this time around), so at times it can feel like a bit much. Still, the visuals and effects the movie boasts certainly makes it worth a look.

Directed by Benjamin Christensen (who also directed the 1929 Seven Footprints to Satan, a movie I deeply enjoyed when last I saw it), Haxan is an interesting experience that, if you’re a fan of silent films, is very much worth looking into. While it’s arguable that it loses some of the power with rewatches, having seen the movie twice, perhaps three times now, it’s still a solid viewing.