I watched this back when it first came out. It was not due to the source material, but rather the fact that the movie rental business was still around, and that was the only form of entertainment at the time. I hadn’t even heard of Nosferatu at the time and my desire to see cult and b-movies at all hadn’t hit, so I went in expecting a normal vampire movie.
This proved to be the wrong mindset, as I feel you can only appreciate the movie if you know what it is paralleling. The jist of the movie is that it’s a reimagining of how the production of Nosferatu went. John Malkovich is the madman behind the camera, trying to convince the normally theater-centric cast to accept moving pictures as the future of where acting will be needed. Some do their jobs, others have a strong resistance, but overall this needs to be the project that convinces the masses that film will be there to stay.
In order to ensure that this film becomes a masterpiece, Malkovich’s character has a trick up his sleeve. Max Shrek (played brilliantly by Willem Dafoe), the real actor who played the original Nosferatu, is actually a genuine vampire. This naturally comes with some side effects such as certain crew members going missing at inopportune times. So the main feature that was suppose to help the film, ends up being its downfall.
The Nosferatu character is amazing by the way. You genuinely get the feeling that he has no idea what’s going on with all this movie business, but the same goes for many of the humans. The stilted dialogue goes a long way in selling the performance as well. Despite following the source movie faithfully, the off-camera events do put an entirely new spin on each scene, most importantly the final one. Overall a good film, but I do recommend watching the original, otherwise it will lack any meaningful context.