Vampyr (1932)

“What was going on? What terrifying secret was unfolding? Allan Gray felt certain of one thing: A soul in mortal distress was crying out for help, and a voice within urged him to heed that call. “

‘Vampyr’, directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer in 1932, is a German and French horror movie made by the notable Swedish director of ‘The Passion of Joan of Arc‘ four years earlier. The film follows a man called Allan Grey, who investigates strange goings in a small village. He uncovers an outbreak of vampirism involving the village doctor and, with the help of a servant, manages to destroy the source of the outbreak and liberate those involved. It’s almost a silent movie with, like Tod Browning’s ‘Dracula‘, short moments of spoken dialogue. Like Browning’s film ‘Vampyr’ draws on jarring imagery and simple, but effective, visual tricks. Dreyer takes is slightly further, however, by completely free-forming his sense of weirdness to extend it to the plot. It draws more on the early, experimental films of Luis Buñuel such as ‘Un Chien Andalou’ and ‘L’Age D’or”. The film is full of striking and genuinely unsettling imagery. Dreyer uses shadow and trick photography, but he doesn’t just use it superficially, the whole film feels like a complete package, more thought through than ‘Dracula‘ and less campy. The location filming and the style of the film, as with ‘The Passion of Joan of Arc‘ gives it a grounded feeling, so the shocks, when they come, are even more effective.

Would I recommned it? Yes – it’s not as moving as ‘The Passion of Joan of Arc‘, but it is an involving and surprisingly creepy film. You can see the seeds of both Kubrick and Lynch in the way Dreyer frames and constructs his scenes. Watch in a double bill with ‘Dracula‘.

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