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- Rated: Unrated
- Starring: Julian West, N. Babanini, Albert Bras, Baron Nicolas de Gunzberg, Henriette Gerard, Jan Hieronimko, Maurice Schutz
- Written By: Christen Jul (screenplay), Sheridan Le Fanu (novel)
- Directed By: Carl Theodor Dreyer
- Genre: Vampire
- Running Time: 75 Minutes
31 Days of Horror Movies: Vampyr
By Robert T. Trate
October 14, 2013
© Criterion Collection
Halloween is a special time. It is the one time of year when everyone gives of themselves. What they give can be anything from candy to a scare. We thought this October, we here at Mania would give you 31 Horror Films for the 31 days of October. Now, many of you will know these films. Some of you, may not. Get ready for 31 days of Horror Films that will run gauntlet from scary to campy, from horrific to down right ridiculous. Happy Halloween from Mania!
Day 14 brings us to a Vampire film that is from long long ago!
Vampyr’s director Carl Theodor Dreyer, like F.W. Murnau (Nosferatu), gave his story a greater sense of realism. There is no erotic vampire or spooky castle flickering across the screen. Instead there is a town in peril, a vampire on the loose and lone stranger who is the only person that can make a difference. What is shown is a waking nightmare and scarier then Bela Lugosi wanting to suck your blood.
Allan Grey (Julian West) is a seeker of the strange and unusual in the world (think Van Helsing, year one). Wise to the world but naïve to those things that go bump in the night, Allan Grey stumbles upon a cursed small village. While staying at a hotel an old man (Maurice Schutz) delivers a note to Grey that must only be opened upon his death. Of course Grey opens it and discovers that the old man is actually the Lord of the Manor and that is daughter is sick.
Léone, the Lord’s daughter, has fallen under the spell of a vampire. Sounds familiar already but this is where Dreyer film takes an incredible departure. The vampire is not glamorous like Lugosi or horrific like Max Schreck in Nosferatu. It is simplistic, realistic and brilliant.
Now there are shades of Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula, in the film especially when it comes to the Lord’s two daughters. What made Vampyr unique and fresh was its approach to how it revealed what and where the vampires came from. A story telling device that would be laughed at and looked down upon in today’s cinema works perfectly in this near silent film.
West’s performance as Grey is obviously the audience’s perspective in this nightmare but Jan Hieronimko as the village doctor really has the key performance in this piece. It is Hieronimko that is both dark and heroic. The doctor is the key and understanding him and his motives is the lure to the film. It is only then when you understand the doctor will you understand all that come to pass. His final scenes are the ones that will remain with you after the film is over.
The film is also a visual treat for the eyes in how it keeps the audience stimulated. When the film was made cinema was still in its infancy. Dreyer with already nine films to his credit was more than a master of his craft. He layered film over film constantly and created haunting imagery that, at times, is more horrific than the story. His play on shadows and still objects added a level to this tale that would be imitated for years to come.
Now this isn’t Dracula. It’s not a film you can just pop in and unwind after a hard day of work. Vampyr should be taken in and savored like a fine bottle of wine. It is a waking nightmare that transports you to a different time and place. This film is a glimpse into one man’s vision about a horrific tale and the monsters that live beneath our world.