“Vampyr” – Chris Luedtke

When you hear someone say something like, “The classics are better,” films like Vampyr should come to your mind. Films that helped to build genre foundations that will forever be ripped off, intimidated and bastardized. Few filmmakers have such talents to reinvent genres nowadays which is why everything, at least in America, seems to be running so dry. Vampyr is a nice trip back to the glory days, a film that helped to mold the vampire genre that is arguably as influential as Nosferatu.

Vampyr is about Allan Grey (Julian West) as he arrives in a strange castle for the night. But all is not what it seems in the dreary house. People walk around like zombies, murder runs amok, and shadows dance on the walls and grass. When Grey is handed a box that is to be opened upon the death of one of the dwellers, Grey’s world only becomes more distorted as reality and fantasy begin to blur.

Vampyr has a very odd history. This German flick is a restoration piece where there are no full French, German or English versions. Rather, Vampyr has been pieced together through some damaged, remaining German and French titles. However, the Criterion Collection has brought together a beautiful flick. For being a 1932 film, they have not only managed to restore a masterpiece, but they have even added to it. The use of shadows in here is the best I’ve ever seen. No one has ever done it like this since, as far as this critic has seen. Reverse camera techniques are used for unearthing and burying graves. Shadows dance with literally no body. Keep in mind, this is 1932. The stuff director Carl Theodor Dreyer did here is more than exceptional. It’s like a Matrix of its day when it comes to special effects.

The story even today is approached with a unique angle. The line between reality and fiction is blurred with beauty. There are times when we know that Grey is in a fictional world, but there are times when we really can’t tell. Granted, we always find out, but the way its treated is almost acidic. The effects sometimes look ridiculous, but they still work. Again, the shadows are just so beautiful. The imagery and symbolism carry the film. There is virtually no speaking here. But keep in mind, Vampyr is almost straight out of the silent era by only a few years.

Vampyr is one of the few movies that can really stand up, even today. With crap like Twilight becoming the next big vampire film, I can’t help but appreciate Vampyr even more. This is a film that not only set genre standards but also went out of its way to be an original film that could never possibly be imitated. See it.

Rating: ★★★★

-Chris Luedtke

Read A.J. Hakari’s Vampyr review here.

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