Nosferatu

Nosferatu

The Original Vampire

One of the most striking differences between vampire folklore and vampire fiction is that folklore vampires are creepy, not sexy. While there is an implication of sexuality in some versions of the vampire legend, it's a bestial and predatory sort of sexuality- not romantic in the slightest. Folklore vampires are dead people, walking corpses, with implications of the Black Plague (they can turn into rats) and animalistic, mindless predatory instincts. They are not rock stars or teen heart-throbs.

That's what makes “Nosferatu” such a classic. This silent movie was a straight rip-off of the novel “Dracula” by Bram Stoker, as thinly-veiled as it could possibly have been. The acting, as was typical of the silent era, was over the top to the point of seeming ridiculous to a modern viewer. But the vampire was truly creepy, truly spooky, with his bald and distinctly rat-like face and his long, long fingers.

 

“Count Orlok,” as he was called, was scary in a way that Lugosi's Dracula could never hope to be. The movie as a whole wasn't really scary, but the vampire was. He made your skin crawl. As in the novel of “Dracula,” there were implications of sex, but it's the kind of sex that was most taboo to the novel's Victorian readers. When later writers took the dark and very misogynistic sexuality implicit in “Dracula” and transformed it into romantic eroticism, the vampire became a laughable pornographic trope instead of a figure of horror. “Nosferatu” shows us the way vampires used to be, before Hollywood defanged them.