Tag Archives: Max Schreck

Fright Club: Horror’s Best Weirdos

Horror loves it some weirdos – and so do we! Be honest, Carrie would not have done nearly so much damage had she fit in somehow, right?

Oh, Carrie – how we love you and your nutcase of a mom. And the White women are hardly alone. Freaks and misfits litter the horror cinema landscape – and thank God for it! Whether Edwin Neal – the hitchhiker and harbinger of what’s to come in West Texas – or an unseemly Pit Bukowski, white gown and katana bedecked in Der Samurai.

You want to get really weird? How about anybody from Calvaire? Possession’s swinging Heinrich? Let’s not forget our favorite prom non-goer, The Loved Ones’ Lola (Robin McLeavy).

And these aren’t even the best. Who are the five best weirdos in horror cinema?

5. Orlok (Willem Dafoe) Shadow of the Vampire (2000)

Veteran actor/effortless weirdo Willem Dafoe picked up an Oscar nomination playing Max Schreck, the “actor” who portrayed vampire Count Orlock in FW Murnau’s groundbreaking 1922 film Nosferatu.

Shadow film pokes good natured but pointed fun at the industry, but it’s based on the rumor at the time that Schreck’s performance was so authentic because he was, indeed, a vampire.

Dafoe is odd as they come, and also heartbreaking, goofy, lovable, wounded and terrifying.

4. Ichi (Nao Ohmori) Ichi the Killer (2001)

Clearly someone from a Takashi Miike film was bound to make this list. Indeed, just about every character in this film would have been in contention. But no one out-weirds Ichi.

A man-child who’s equal parts sympathetic and repellant, Ichi does the bidding of those who care for him. Their moral compass does not always point North, though they try to do the right thing by letting Ichi unleash his very, very wrong behavior in a kind of, sort of heroic way.

Which is why some of his actions are so profoundly, scarringly surprising. Because Ichi does some seriously fucked up shit. And he’s not even the one who skins a guy alive.

3. May (Angela Bettis) May (2002)

Oh, Angela Bettis. No one – not even Sissy Spacek – captured the crushing awkwardness of trying to fit in when you are, deep down, cripplingly odd as well as Bettis.

Her May aches for a friend. She has some heartbreaking trouble finding that in Adam (Jeremy Sisto) and Polly (Anna Faris – brilliant). But if you can’t find a friend, you might just have to make one.

Her performance is all awkward pauses, embarrassing gestures and longing. It’s beautiful, tender, sweet and – eventually – forgivingly bloody. We love May.

2. Bubby (Nicholas Hope) Bad Boy Bubby (1993)

Christ, kid, you’re a weirdo.

Writer/director Rolf de Heer explores something amazing in his Aussie arthouse horror Bad Boy Bubby. Bubby has spent his entire 30 years in a single, windowless room with Mam. She leaves now and again, affixing a gas mask and warning the boy that he’ll die if he sets foot outside.

No, things aren’t that great for Bubby. They’re even worse for Cat. When Bubby eventually has to meander out into the open, his adventure is so authentically pieced together. He assimilates information and behaviors with the perfect sense of childishness.

Nicholas Hope’s performance is a minor miracle in a film that is wild, disturbing and pretty amazing.

1. Big Ronnie (Michael St. Michaels ) Greasy Strangler (2016)

Honestly, just about anybody from this film might have made the list. Big Brayden (Sky Elobar) was an obvious possibility. Those glasses! And he’s shit scared!

But it’s Big Ronnie (or is it Private Eye Jodie?!) who earns the accolade. Yes, he may be a bullshit artist, but that smile, the disco suit, the “big rat,” – let’s not even get started on his diet or hygiene. We’d never have thought of using a carwash quite that way, and yet we will never be able to think of it otherwise again.

Big Ronnie is the Weirdo All Star. Celebrate with some potato chips?

Halloween Countdown, Day 29: Nosferatu

Nosferatu (1922)

Best vampire ever. Not the seductive, European aristocrat, cloaked and mysterious, oh no. With Count Orlock, filmmaker F. W. Murnau explores something more repellant, casting an actor who resembles an albino naked mole rat.

Given that Murnau equates the film’s vampire-related deaths with the plague, this vermin-like image fits well. But more than that, thanks to a peculiarly perfect performance by Max Schreck, Murnau mines the carnality of the vampire myth for revulsion and fear rather than eroticism.

Famously, the film was meant to be the first Dracula movie, but Murnau could not work out an agreement with Bram Stoker’s estate (who later sued, and all copies of the film were nearly lost). He changed a handful of things in an attempt to avoid the eventual lawsuit and filmed anyway. Names are changed (Harker is now Hutter, Dracula is Orlock, etc.), and details are altered, but the story remains largely – well, criminally – the same.

The genius move is the spindly, bald hunchback for a vampire – why, he’s almost a European Monty Burns! Murnau’s mastery behind the camera – particularly his ability to capture the vampire’s shadow – made the film a breathtaking horror show at the time. But don’t discount this as dusty history.

Sure, the silent film style of acting appears nothing short of quaint today, and the Dracula tale has been told too, too often at this point. But Max Schreck is a freak, and in his bony, clawlike hands, Count Orlock remains the greatest vampire ever undone by a sinless maiden.

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Best Draculas Countdown

There is a new Dracula movie, which begs the question: Do we need a new Dracula movie?

No. There’s nothing new to say, and with so many worthy options already available, why buy new? With that in mind, we have pulled together a list of our favorite cinematic Draculas. (Note, we cheated here and there. Sue us.)

10. Frank Langella

In 1979, Frank Langella recreated the Stoker anti-hero as a virile romantic lead and the ladies swooned. Langella is a consummate actor who brings a wry charm to the screen.

9. Jack Palance

Breathy and weird – as always – Jack Palance makes the vampire into a strange beast in a film that’s campy and ridiculous but worth watching.

8. Udo Kier

Speaking of weird! The effortlessly bizarre and uniquely compelling Udo Kier is the anemic and pathetic monster at the heart of Andy Warhol’s Dracula – a gorgeous piece of vampire trash if every there was such a film.

7. William Marshall

Officially, no, he is not Dracula. He is Blacula – respect him! Fear him! Dig him!! There are few Seventies blaxploitation films that can hold a candle to this one, mostly because of Marshall’s rich baritone and compelling presence.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXrL_Hm50eU

6. Klaus Kinski

In 1979, Werner Herzog revisited F. W. Murnau’s masterpiece Nosferatu – a film that was originally meant to be a Dracula film, but copyright forbade it. Herzog fixed that, with a mesmerizing Kinski as the bloodthirsty count Hypnotic and creepy, Kinski nails it.

5. Gary Oldman

What I love about most of the vampires on this list is that the actors zero in on the inherent weirdness in the role. Oldman channels the Count’s smolder, but that granny version early on is the one we remember.

4. Willem Dafoe

OK, so this is a bit of a stretch. In Shadow of the Vampire, Dafoe plays Max Schreck, the actor who played Count Orlock in Murnau’s Nosferatu. But Orlock was supposed to be Dracula, and the point is, Dafoe is amazing – hilarious, creepy and terrifying all at once. He is easily one of the best.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAn5uLNMmjk

3. Bela Lugosi

Sure, #3 may seem low for the actor most linked to the role. He’s the icon, we give him that, and even if there are others we find scarier or more interesting, Bela will always be image of Dracula.

2. Christopher Lee

But Christopher Lee – the six foot five inch baritone – is so much more menacing. This was the Dracula to fear. This was the one we believed could turn into a wolf and tear your throat out, the one that had the strength of ten men, the one who could woo the ladies. Christopher Lee was the one.

1. Max Schreck

Hopefully we’ve made the case by now that Murnau’s Nosferatu counts, and our favorite Count is Orlock because Max Schreck is one sick genius. So sick that an entire brilliant film was created to due him honor. He’s the creepiest, most memorable, all time best Dracula, even if he is a vampire by another name.