Darkeva is the lovely lady in charge of Darkeva's Dark Delights, one of the great dark fiction book blogs I've been lucky enough to find in my meandering across the blogosphere. Reviews, interviews, giveaways & more, it's definitely a spot you need to check out if you're a fan of horror and fantasy. I tapped her brain to find out about one of her favorite monsters, and wouldn't you know she picked a doozy.
I remember creature features, or films that focused on one particular monster like Dracula, The Wolf Man, Frankenstein, The Mummy, etc, to be quite entertaining as a kid. They were always fun little romps that I watched around Halloween and I always looked forward to them because this was before the wave of supernatural shows like The Vampire Diaries, True Blood, and Supernatural came on, and the only other spooky shows were Simpsons Halloween episodes, Bugs Bunny cartoons, and Scooby Doo. Until then, these corny old movies were pretty much the closest thing I had to a frightening film.
And then I discovered Nosferatu (1922), directed by the visionary director F.W. Murnau, and it changed the way I look at monsters (years later, The River Man (2004) in which Cary Elwes portrays serial killer Ted Bundy would also change my definition of the word ‘monster’ but that’s a separate post ;-)). Until I saw Nosferatu, the most dominant images of vampires I had in my mind were of Bela Lugosi’s Dracula and Tom Cruise in Interview with the Vampire (1994), but the creature, Count Orlok (a thinly veiled stand-in for Count Dracula that Murnau got his script writer to invent when the Stoker estate wouldn’t give him the rights to make a film based on Dracula), was probably the first ugly vampire that I saw. I’d seen flashes of The Master in Buffy and was familiar with the ridged foreheads and sharp teeth that indicated that those vamps weren’t supposed to be pretty like the previously mentioned Cruise in Interview, but Count Orlock conveyed no humanity. Angel and Spike would always go back to their ‘regular’ non-vampire faces, but Nosferatu couldn’t change back, couldn’t mask his outward appearance.
The image of him creeping up the stairs to get to Ellen (Stoker’s Mina Harker) is an iconic one, with his shadow travelling faster than he does, making for a great interplay between shadow and light in a way that sticks in your mind forever after, something few directors have achieved. Another image that really frightened me was when he broke in to Ellen’s room and there’s a shot of his shadowy, clawed hand over her chest. When he squeezes his palm, it’s like he’s squeezing her heart.
In the end, Orlock is vanquished and Ellen’s sacrifice proves not to be in vain, but that particular interpretation of vampires always stuck in my mind from that point on. Not too long after that, I discovered Erhige’s amazing interpretation of the filming of Nosferatu called Shadow of the Vampire (2000), which, I’m sorry, Willem Dafoe deserved to win the Academy Award for (although thankfully, he was nominated) owing to his performance as Count Orlock/Max Von Schreck. If you haven’t seen the film, its premise is that the actor who portrayed Orlock in the original 1922 Nosferatu, Max Schreck, was actually a vampire himself that Murnau hired on for authenticity. Shadow was a fantastic re-exploration of the territory that Nosferatu went into, only this time, the monster was given that much more focus and allowed to show his side of the story, his life, his desires. Still, the most iconic image of a monster for me has always been (and no matter how many horror films I see and novels/stories that I read, will always be) Count Orlock from Nosferatu, which remains one of the most arresting figures I’ve ever encountered.