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This week:

Shadow of the Vampire

Filthy says:
"One bad mother-

Coming next week: the filthy fucking readers' Choices.

I got in a fight last night, but that doesn't really bother me. What kills me is that I had the shit kicked out of me right in front of my wife, by Burt. Burt's the old guy who hunches over the end of the bar at the Arvada Tavern, nursing beers like they were teen titties. I don't like to fight, which is why I make fun of Burt. Sure, sometimes I make fun of someone my own size, but then I run away really fast. Burt's the guy it's safe to tease because he just sits there and takes the abuse, and occasionally cries.

Last night, though, the fucker jumped me after I said he gave my dog Gonnorhea. Jesus Christ, he just started wailing. All I was doing was trying to impress my wife by acting like the big man talking tough, and that spunky senior citizen went nuts. I fell down, my nose started bleeding, I got dizzy. The next thing I saw was Mrs. Filthy pinning Burt to the pool table and someone I didn't know kicking me in the nuts.

Me and the Mrs. went for a beer after Shadow of the Vampire. That's when the old man sucker-punched me. I haven't been beat up in front of my wife since our honeymoon, and it's embarrassing, but that's not even the worst part. The worst part is that after she drove me home, wiped my nose and put me to bed, she decided I have too much free time. I need a job, she said. I need to burn off some of my "creative energy" (her quotes) doing something useful because she's sick of working double shifts at Hancock Fabric just so I can make fun of old people. Starting Monday, she's taking away my allowance and I have to start seriously looking for work. I am more fucked than a Tri-Delt at a kegger.

Burt is a lot like Shadow's vampire: sad and old, seemingly harmless, but so pent-up with rage and so anti-social that he's one bad motherfucker. I must say, though, that I enjoyed Shadow of the Vampire a hell of a lot more than getting clocked.

Shadow is the fictitious story of the making of Nosferatu. John Malkovich is Murnau, the great German filmmaker denied permission to make Dracula. He makes it anyway, changing the vampire's name to Orlock and the location to Czechoslovakia. Because he is so obsessed with telling the story, he does not hire a German to play Orlock. Unknown to his crew, he hires a real vampire, hundreds of years old and decrepit, played by Willem Dafoe. Malkovich tells the crew Dafoe is a method actor, that's why he's always in character.

Dafoe is vain, difficult to work with, eager to eat crew members, and unwilling to do thing's the director's way. Basically, he's an allegory for Kevin Costner. While he makes a great vampire in the movie, he is also a pain in the ass. The story is about how far Malkovich will allow Dafoe to go in order to make the greatest vampire movie of all time.

Shadow of the Vampire is pretty damn fun for a few reasons. Mostly, Dafoe is really fucking great. He has a new take on vampires that's funnier-in a pathetic way-than it is scary. Plus, what better chance for Malkovich and Dafoe to do what they do best? That is, act hammier than Easter dinner. This is good, fatty, salty ham; overacting that is needed, not out of some desperate attempt for a little gold dildo. Dafoe tops Malkovich, because he gets to chew not only the scenery but also other actors.

I liked that Dafoe's vampire isn't the typical Hollywood bullshit: one-dimensional, bloodthirsty monsters. He's the most rounded and sympathetic character in the movie. He's too old to catch people, so he lives off a diet of rats, bats and other small animals. He's impotent and too ancient to remember when or where he was born, and he's been starved for human interaction, just like Burt. In one great scene, he explains why he thinks Bram Stoker's Dracula is sad: Because Dracula had no servants. Dracula hadn't spent time with other people in over 400 years. Like Burt, Dafoe is mercurial, self-loathing and capable of murder. So, as I have learned, you better tiptoe around him.

Unfortunately, the vampire is just a vehicle for director Merhige to make statements about art, obsession and sacrifice. It's too obvious he's making statements, though I'm not exactly sure what they mean. All I know is the story would have been more enjoyable without them. Whenever we get pulled away from Dafoe, the story goes flatter than a Chinese gymnast's chest (except for one gratuitous scene of an actress with nice tits writhing in a morphine haze). I don't give a baboon's red ass about the others because they're not developed enough for us to care about. Hell, I'd rather see them get eaten. I also wish Dafoe's bloodlust was more like when I jerk off. He would really enjoy eating them, but he'd feel lonely and sad afterward.

I wanted some scares, too, or at least some highs and lows, but the movie is too fucking determined to be highbrow to get down in the gutter and really make us piss our pants. It's too intellectual and not visceral enough. The exact opposite, says Mrs. Filthy, of me. As a result, Shadow never really gives us enough for a climax (sort of like my lovemaking skill). It's obvious early on that the point is how Malkovich will sacrifice anything for the picture, so the ending is about as big a surprise as a transsexual lover's confession on "Jerry Springer." The premise and Dafoe are good enough to carry the picture a long way, but where it could have really built up to something gothic and creepy, it lays flat as my quadriplegic neighbor.

At the beginning of the movie, we have to endure some pretty artsy shit. There are a bunch of shots that don't accomplish anything other than giving film-school cinematographers boners. That had me plenty fucking worried, but once we get past the fancy shit, the picture looks great. It's dark and slinky, spending more time in the shadows than in the light. Silhouettes slide down walls like a stoned Courtney Love, and there are plenty of cracks and crevices for Dafoe to sneak out of.

Three fingers for Shadow of the Vampire. One finger for Burt. It's going to be a while before I can hold my head up high in the Arvada Tavern. Like at least a week. I guess I can use that time to sucker someone into giving me a job. The vacation is over.

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