This classic French film stars Barron Nicholas de Ginsburg (listed as Julian West in the credits), Sybille Schmitz, Maurice Schutz and Rena Mandel. Known in England as The Strange Adventure of David Gray, it was made by Dreyer with the help of his friends – various poets, writers, musicians and artists – and was paid for by Baron de Gunzburg.
This old film was notably unconventional and is still considered a masterpiece today for its mood and effects. At the time of its release, its psychological depth and disturbing imagery was lost of audiences that were expecting another Dracula (which had come out a year earlier).
Truth be told, this film doesn’t exactly have much of a plot, however, it is said that it is very loosely based on Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla. The film follows a young man who discovers the presence of a female vampire in a mystifying European castle. Instead of focusing on the story, Dreyer went all out on Vampyr’s dreamlike visuals, using trick photography, like double exposure, and a fog-like effect created by allowing additional light to leak onto the exposed film. This resulted in an eerie film that appears to have come straight from a dream, or a nightmare.
According to Amazon’s Jeff Shannon:
“…it’s the ghostly, otherworldly tone of the film that lingers powerfully in the memory. Dreyer maintains this eerie mood by suggesting horror and impending doom as opposed to any overt displays of terrifying imagery. Watching Vampyr is like being placed under a hypnotic trance, where the rules of everyday reality no longer apply.”
Carl Theodor Dreyer created a dark and haunting masterpiece that was before its time. Any fan of classic horror should have this film among their collection.