Shadow of the Vampire

If it isn't in frame, it never happened.

A review by Mike Shea   Movie Rating: ( * * * * * )    DVD Rating: ( * * * * * )

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Shadow of the Vampire is a movie that is going to take me a couple of viewings before I really get it all in. It is a great movie, no doubt about it, there is just so much subtlety that I didn't take it all in the first time. The story is about a lunatic who makes a deal with the devil to tell the greatest story ever told. What is wonderful about it is the idea of wrapping a fictional story around the making of a real movie. This is what makes it a lot more like Being John Malcovich than Bram Stoker's Dracula.

A single philosophy runs through the entire movie, one that I am sure could be discussed for hours all on it's own. If an event doesn't happen on film, did it happen at all? The idea that in 100 years, all of our experiences are lost. There is no record of what we see or hear, unless it is recorded on film. That film is a recording of memory, true memory, as opposed to the fiction that we live every day. Ok, my head hurts.

Willam DaFoe plays the Vampire. An animal with a simple taste of blood. There are a couple of wonderful scenes in the movie, one where he describes his main problem with the original Dracula book. It is probably the highlight of the movie. The other actors all do a great job of filling in their roles to add just the right flavor to the film.

The story is simple and straight forward. We have little if any subplots to get in the way of the story. The terribly dark scenes played havoc with my Sony LCD projector but still fit the mood of the film exactly as it was meant to. It was refreshing to find a movie that spent it's time on acting and detail rather than adding any number of subplots.

The DVD of Shadow is about as good as I could ask. It includes both a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack as well as a DTS soundtrack. The picture is a sharp 2.35 to 1 16x9 enhanced picture that is best seen on a good CRT display rather than the LCD one I used. The extras included a directors commentary, a perfect extra for a movie like this, as well as the usual other extras.

Shadow of the Vampire is a wonderfully small movie. It takes a single story, a single idea, and works it as hard as it can. It doesn't try to impress the audience with special effects. It doesn't spend a lot of time worrying about the lifestyle of the vampire. It is a simple concept with depth beyond many movies I have ever seen. Definitely one to see.