Shadow of the Vampire **1/2 (out of 5) (2000)

Cast: John Malkovich, Willem Dafoe, Udo Kier, Cary Elwes, Eddie Izzard

Directed by E. Elias Merhige

"The Skeleton of a Movie" may have been a more appropriate title for this film that's more fun in hearing about than it is to actually view. At just a smidge over 90 minutes, it still feels like a much longer film due to a storyline that just doesn't deliver excitement, despite a clever idea for a story.

The story in question takes place on the set during the filming of NOSFERATU, of course the classic German vampire film inspired by Bram Stoker's Dracula. Some strange things have been going on during the making of the film, the most alarming of which is the star, Max Schreck, looks and acts like the vampire he is playing whether he is on or off camera. When some members of the crew start disappearing, suspicion falls immediately upon Schreck, who may be playing the part a little too close to reality.

The best thing about this rather stale film is Defoe's amusing character portrayal of Schreck, but not enough of interest is done with him to make the film compelling. Director Merhige adds some stylish touches, the script is knowingly written, the cast is well put together, and good use of cinematography all add to the creepy appearance. Yet even with the fact that the elements were there for something good, it just never gels into anything more than a curiosity for most who will view the film. How much you like this film will greatly depend on your interest in the original NOSFERATU and those who made it. Despite the eccentric performances by the leads and original idea for a story, there probably won't be enough for anyone else but a true fan to care.

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