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'Nosferatu the Vampyre,' now streaming on Peacock, is the perfect film to watch ahead of 'Renfield'
Here's what makes the film a must-see for horror and vampire fans.
Renfield, hitting theaters Friday, will take us to New Orleans to see the fallout of an assistant who just wants out of his servitude to Dracula. There’s your reminder to keep your soul card information to yourself. Unlike previous versions of the classic tale that depict Renfield as disturbingly loyal to the vampire, Nicholas Hoult’s Renfield decides he wants out of his abusive relationship with Dracula (Nicolas Cage) in this horror-comedy that's earned rave reviews and promises bloody gore and camp.
But in order for a movie to be campy, you need a more serious original concept where the tropes and lore are more fleshed out. That’s where Nosferatu the Vampyre (now streaming on Peacock!) flies in. So hang up your garlic, pull down your blinds, and let’s dive into what makes the film a must-see for horror and vampire fans.
Nosferatu the Vampyre, Werner Herzog’s 1979 remake of 1922's Nosferatu (which is currently being reimagined by Robert Eggers), sets us in 19th century Wismar, Germany and Transylvania. An estate agent, Jonathan Harker, is approached by Renfield, who tells him that a nobleman from Transylvania, Count Dracula, wants to buy a property in Wismar. Renfield lets out maniacal laugh after maniacal laugh as he tricks Jonathan to travel to Transylvania to sell Dracula the property. The story gets dark, and the cinematography matches it.
We’d of course expect the movie to lack light at times — it is a vampire movie after all — but what’s most impressive is how Herzog turns well-lit scenes into something ... dark. Herzog makes the beautiful countryside feel wilted, and the townspeople warning Jonathan of Dracula aren’t warm. Other popular horror movies at the time, like 1980's Friday the 13th, depicted almost an idealized backdrop with a picturesque lake, cozy cabins, and campfire songs. You won’t find that solace here.
Every part of the movie works to unsettle you. From the opening, you can see what we imagine are people who’ve had the life drained out of them by Dracula as bone-chilling music takes us on an unpleasant tour of the room. You never feel secure anywhere as the darkness and lingering shots create a slow decay matching the plot of the movie. If you’re afraid of your own shadow, we’d recommend not seeing this movie. The castle interior is purposely unpleasant, and the servants are nowhere to be found. There’s not a single part of us that wants to be there, but just like when Renfield slices someone’s arm in half with a serving platter in the Renfield trailers, you’re sucked in.
Herzog meticulously builds up the legend of Dracula, and after you’ve had to readjust your seat for the 1,260th time (a vampire number) from your uneasiness, you’re introduced. Klaus Kinski plays the perfect Dracula, as his presence is inexplicably petrifying and the makeup team didn’t take shortcuts. You can’t help but pull up your blanket as he approaches someone — moving in and out of shadows as you’re terrified he’s going to overcome them at any moment. His fangs hang menacingly in the front of his mouth. The teeth seep deeply into the innocent flesh of people’s necks like a close-up of a bee sting. We dare you not to wince.
Renfield plays the perfect foil to Dracula’s domineering figure. He’s like a headless wolf sent into a chicken coup (but still has teeth somehow?). His laugh is like fangs on a chalkboard.
Nosferatu the Vampyre is far from camp, making it the perfect classic vampire tale to see ahead of Renfield. It takes itself seriously, and you should too, because you never know what might come knocking at your door.