Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Movie Review: Vampyr (1932) - 2 stars

Note: This film was reviewed for the "1001 Movies You Must See" club. Click here to read the reviews of other members.  

Carl Theodor Dreyer's 1932 horror flick Vampyr is a stunning atmosperhic achievement, but the story lacks enough real depth to the point where it drags in many spots. The film is mostly dialogue-free and it relies on an avalanche of title cards to explain the origins of vampires. I have a hard time believing that many contemporary film-goers would be able to sit through this entire 75 minute film in one sitting. Of course the slow pacing does add to Dreyer's atmosphere in some respects, but the overall feel I got from Vampyr is a film that is easy to appreciate, but much more difficult to thoroughly enjoy. 

In a predominantly non-professional cast, Julian West was picked for the lead role of Allan Grey. In a nutshell, this film is about Grey's investigations of mysterious happenings at an old inn. Among the suspicious activity that Grey -- an actual vampire historian -- notices is a chilling sequence in which he has a vision of his own burial. Many other things happen prior to this, but not many of them are worth-noting.

Many modern horror films rely on masses of gore and mindless plot revelations to bring audiences into the theater. Providing an interesting contrast, Dreyer's film relies first on creating a compelling visual aura rather than focusing on plot twists. It's very refreshing to see a film that doesn't force viewers to sit through two hours of boredom to have the whole story explained in the last thirty seconds. 

While the directorial achievements are aplenty in this film, the slow pacing is undeniable. It's interesting to see the roots of some of the modern horror films we see today, but I have a tough time believing modern horror fans would rather sit through this slow-paced, bloodless film than see one of the countless remakes that are being made today. 


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