Anticipating the nightmarish and eerie emotions that are to wash over the expectant and defenseless viewer, the subtitle of the film- eine Symphonie des Grauens (A Symphony of Horror)– promises and delivers: this is, without ifs, ands, or buts, the sort of movie odds-on to give rise to many a nasty nightmare.
In lieu of the expected caped, somewhat charming blood-sucker, Murnau goes with a foul, terrifying-looking, sleep-haunting fiend for his vampire. This would be Count Orlok. He doesn’t seem the loquacious kind (I guess we could chalk part of that up to the fact that it’s a silent movie), and as in Bram Stocker’s novel, fed up to the back teeth with his Transylvania-treadmill existence, he makes up his mind and is hell-bent on moving to England, where he looks forward to wreaking havoc and sucking many a young lady dry.
A more than spooky protagonist, an unsettling soundtrack and a deft use of the camera, all collude to keep you as on the edge as possible and make your skin crawl. Murnau does a bang-up job both technically and in terms of pacing and piecing the story together- which, the changing of the names and a few other more-or-less-trifling specifics aside, is a relatively faithful adaptation of Stocker’s Dracula. He also succeeds giving life to a central character that stays with you, I dare say a great deal more than the protagonist of the 1931, this-time-perfectly-legally-made Dracula.
Unquestionably an exponent of the silent era, and of horror films generally for that matter.