Nosferatu Festival Celebrates the Original Cinematic Vampire
Get in on the nights of the living dead
"Nosferatu? Does this word not sound like the call of the death bird at midnight? You dare not say it since the pictures of life will fade into dark shadows; ghostly dreams will rise from your heart and feed on your blood." – Opening title card from F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu, 1922
With the ratlike upper incisors, the bald pate, and vulpine ears, actor Max Schreck's portrayal of the ur-bloodsucker couldn't be more dissimilar from the vast legions of his exsanguinary cinematic progeny. As Count Orlok (not Dracula – this was the original mockbuster), he is to Bela Lugosi and Frank Langella's effete, inherently carnal night stalkers as a rancid claret is to the finest Chateau Mouton Rothschild Bordeaux. But of course, they don't drink wine, do they?
Expect otherwise at Austin's inaugural Nosferatu Festival: A Weekend of Horror, Bat City's newest and potentially most monomaniacal entry into an already lengthy list of film fests. Founded by Mitch Rafter, publisher of local glossy horror zine Gore Noir, the three-day event celebrates the 90th anniversary of the arrival on American screens of the German expressionist "symphony of terror" with appropriately phantasmagorical aplomb. Expect multiple screenings of Murnau's masterpiece featuring live unique scores by the Invincible Czars and Lucid Dementia, coffin relay races, and a downright bloodthirsty attempt to slaughter the current Guinness World Record for "Largest Gathering of People Dressed as Vampires," which for now stands at 1,039 undead, undead, undead.
"Nosferatu is a film that's loved by so many different types of people," explained Rafter, "including the goths, the metal crowd, old-school horror fans, and it just kind of struck me as amazing that a figure as iconic as Nosferatu hadn't had his own festival built around him. I took that initial idea and then built a whole kind of celebratory vampire weekend around it." (Note: Vampire Weekend will not be playing.)
A welcome respite from the hordes of shambling, Romero-esque revenants that have overrun pop culture for the past decade, Rafter promises the minifest will be family-friendly during the daylight hours, but will descend into a toothsome orgy of diabolical debauchery less suitable for the Hotel Transylvania set. Costumes are encouraged, although attendees need not go to Gary Oldman or Klaus Kinski lengths. After all, plastic dime-store fangs worn by an unhinged Nicolas Cage in Vampire's Kiss made for one of the most memorable vampiric performances of the 1980s. "We'll be having a costume contest, but that doesn't necessarily mean you have to come as a vampire," Rafter said. "People can come as vampire slayers, victims, brides of Dracula, or whatever they want." (Our money's on the various incarnations of Stoker's original Renfield, who somehow always manages to upstage his undead overlord no matter what film version he appears in.)
As for libations, Rafter said, "We're also going to have a specially crafted 'Nosferatu-brew' created by 4th Tap Brewing Co-op, who are going to be making their beer as bloodred as possible, and we'll be putting that into IV bags for people to drink from." Shades of Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive there, to be sure, but it's Nosferatu's nacht der untoten, at least until the sun comes up.
Nosferatu Festival: May 31-June 2, 4th Tap Brewing Co-op, 10615 Metric. Opening night party at Kick Butt Cafe, 5775 Airport. Tickets and info at www.nosferatufestival.com.