Vampyr (Carl Dreyer, 1932)


I’m going to end the  horror countdown with an eerie vintage black&white whisper rather than a slicked-up bloody slasher bang.  Carl Dreyer’s Vampyr is one of my favorite silent(ish)* films, at once both arcanely ancient and avant-garde, and I love giving in to its gauzy ominous spell this time of year.  Dreyer’s  images and shot compositions defy both the cinematic conventions of his time and ours, which lends a deeply unsettling characteristic to this early tale of vampiric drama.

In pursuit of his occult studies, young, wide-eyed Alan happens by a forlorn hamlet, steeped in death and mist.  Almost immediately upon arrival he’s approached by a hoary old man who in fear for his life and his daughters’ draws Alan into his confidence in hope that the young man will be their salvation, as nobody else seen thus far is to be trusted.  Seems that all the other villagers have been culled from a Goya painting, especially the country doctor who is cagily harboring a vial of poison and an ungodly arrangement of facial hair.  

Although this sounds like a solid plot set-up I don’t want to give the incorrect impression that this film is in any way substantially plotty.  Vampyr‘s immense strength is the sinister, oneiric atmosphere that arises from the accumulation of deeply striking images softly piling onto one another in a dread quietude.  As you watch Alan wander through this film its as if slipping into the hazy netherworld ‘twixt wakefulness and dream. 

*Vampyr is not technically a silent film, although that was Dreyer’s intention. However, dialogue is very limited, and so much of the development driven by text, that it pretty much is silent anyway.


3 Responses to “Vampyr (Carl Dreyer, 1932)”

  1. dumbricht Says:

    Will add this to my queue. Dreyer directed one of my favorite spiritual movies “Ordet”. One of those films that had a surprising effect for me.

    I didn’t finish my 31 horror movies – life got in the way. Loved your series. What are you going to work on as an encore?

  2. Miss Q Says:

    You did more than I, the idea for the series came to me only after October was half over! I appreciated your comments very much, and look forward to seeing the titles I added to my queue based on your (excellent) series. If you’re already a Dreyer fan I think you’ll love Vampyr. I have not seen Ordet yet but similarly The Passion of Joan of Ark has a profound effect on me.

    For the time being I’ll revert back to my write-ups of more-or-less randomly selected films here, some new most old, which is what I was doing before. Perhaps another themed series idea will present itself down the line though! Have anything lined up, yourself?

  3. dumbricht Says:

    This is the second year I tried this – last year watched 31, but write ups were limited to two or three lines. I say this, because nothing is more draining than bad horror, and I need a break.

    Some real world stuff I need to focus on, but I have an idea for a longer term project. I’ll let you know more, I may invite you to get involved if it interests you — it will focus on only the best movies.

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