If you ever needed more proof that Willem Dafoe is the creepiest dude on the face of the planet, I’ll tell you where to find it.
THE BEER: Dark Night Oatmeal Stout ; Santa Cruz Ale Works
This is a fully sensible oatmeal stout, meant to be served in an English Tulip pint glass like the Guinness glass in the picture above. It has the usual bitter cacao on the nose that one should get from a good stout, but which only emerges after it’s been out of the fridge for a few minutes. No, not room temperature. Just not super-cold. The flavor is fully dry, meaning no one felt the need to add sugary-sweet flavoring. This beer doesn’t coat the mouth but does brush it with a thin layer of subdued maltiness.
THE MOVIE: Shadow of the Vampire ; 2001
The 1922 silent film Nosferatu was a disaster at the time, due to Bram Stoker’s widow suing the HELL out of them for copyright infringement and winning BIG. The film itself, however, has managed to hold on for the last 93 years even though only one print survived the court-ordered destruction of the film. You could say that Nosferatu is one of the earliest “underground” horror movies, due to its mere existence being criminal for such a long time. That would make Shadow of the Vampire horror-film buff fan fiction without the slightest hint of irony, and that sincerity is what makes this film work.
The plot is wafer-thin, but the atmosphere and acting are effective and chilling. The perpetually agitated John Malkovich plays director F.W. Murnau in this alterna-history version of the filming of Nosferatu. The cast of the film, after recording some establishing scenes, migrates to Czechoslovakia (because that was still a thing in 1921) without knowing who will play the titular monster. We’re finally introduced to Max Schreck / Count Orlok (Dafoe) as he first reveals himself to a terrified actor (played by Eddie Izzard) as the camera runs.
Murnau emphasizes to the cast that Schreck, with his diabolical appearance, is a method actor, not to be questioned, but rather to be revered and placated. After we see a caged ferret left under Orlok’s castle, however, it becomes obvious that Schreck is not a method actor, but something else entirely. Watching the cast treat his horrifying behavior with respect (due to his AMAZING commitment to his art) forms the compelling core of the movie. For example, at one point, he snatches a bat out of mid-air and chows down, in front of a couple of speechless crew members.
Schreck’s showdowns with Murnau are impressive as well. The horror itself lies almost entirely in Defoe’s repulsive performance. And honestly? Malkovich’s too. But that guy has always been on my creep-out list. Murnau also has that Faustian deal in which he is willing to sell out those close to him in order to fulfill his artistic vision. I would have loved to see Malkovich-as-Murnau’s reaction to losing the lawsuit to the widow Stoker.
Moral of the story? Um…don’t f*** around with vampires? Or do if you want to shoot a crazy movie that will never make you any money?
I’ll be having a different sort of “Nosferatu” on the docket soon, but that will be closer to Christmas.