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Vampyr…early talkie awesomeness! | Trash Cookies

Categorized | Film, Movie Reviews

Vampyr…early talkie awesomeness!

Posted on 20 September 2008 by Craig

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Recently while flipping through an issue of Rue Morgue (a.k.a. the greatest horror magazine ever) I stumbled across a striking picture. The black and white photo showed an old man with his back to the camera. A bell fixed to a post hung above his head and he carried a sickle at his side. He looked kind of like , the angel of death meets the guy on the Quaker Oats box, but not as dumb as that sounds. The photo was actually a still from the 1932 film Vampyr. This eerie portrait was enough to get me on Netflix and add it to my queue. 

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Vampyr is a great example of style out doing substance. The films plot is interesting and compelling but it’s the look and feel of the film that truly makes the movie awesome and memorable. Directed by Danish filmmaker Carl Theodor Dreyer, Vampyr feels like less of an old school horror flick and more like a surreal nightmare, captured and preserved on film. It’s an odd and atmospheric tale that follows young doctor Allan Grey and the strange, super natural events surrounding a secluded French inn. The movie does center on a vampire and a secret history of the creatures but the director never beats the audience over the head with obvious plot points. In fact many facets of the film are never out right explained. Instead we are treated to an unusual visual feast consisting of simple but effective in-camera tricks like film running backwards and the use of shadows. In one particularly cool sequence Dr Allan Grey seems to travel outside his body only to encounter a coffin, adorned with a window, revealing his own corpse. The camera then gives us a point of view perspective from inside the casket. It is as if the audience is lying in the box staring into the sky through the window over our faces. Even by today’s desensitized standards this scene is pretty creepy and it must have freaked the hell out of people 70 years ago. This movie is largely a silent film with only a few lines of spoken dialogue. This element only helps to create the pervasive sense of dream-like dread.

Vampyr is an incredible piece of film history but it can really stand on its own. This is not just a film that you watch to bone up on your knowledge of cinema history. The early special effects, grainy film stock and meandering plot all come together to create a dark world on par with more modern weirdo movies like the films of David Lynch. Seeing Vampyr may not win you a game of trivial pursuit or impress your film professor but you will experience an amazing example of a film pushing the boundaries of the medium.

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This film also got me thinking. I haven’t seen many silent or early talkie horror films. Anybody have any suggestions? I’ve seen some Bella Lugosi and Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney but what else you got?

1 Comments For This Post

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  1. RYErnest Says:

    Nice post u have here :D Added to my RSS reader

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