Robert Eggers' NOSFERATU: Anticipating The Reinvention Of A Classic

Creeping up the staircase to movie theaters in 2024, here's everything you need to know about the almighty NOSFERATU remake - from cast to release date, plot details, and more.

By Rebecca Sayce · @blsaycewrites · January 24, 2024, 6:00 AM PST
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Gnarled claws, bushy brows, pointed ears, and one of the most iconic silhouettes in horror history - Nosferatu is unmistakable to both genre and wider film audiences. Whether your mind casts to F. W. Murnau's 1922 original or Werner Herzog's much-loved Nosferatu the Vampyre, the vision of the imposing vampire in a regal black cloak has haunted nightmares for over 100 years.

Now considered one of the key films of the German expressionist movement, Murnau took the iconic Gothic novel Bram Stoker's Dracula and created an adaptation that, even more than ten decades since its release, continues to influence vampire films and the wider world of horror. Whether you have seen the film or not, it's almost guaranteed you would recognize the haunting, hunched figure of Count Orlok or have seen one of the many groundbreaking scenes of Nosferatu pastiched across cinema, television, video games, and more.

So it's safe to say that audiences eagerly anticipate the release of horror heavyweight Robert Eggers' take on Nosferatu. Eggers cemented himself as a horror icon right from the bat with his ethereal and eerie feature debut, A24 film The Witch, packed full of haunting imagery, genuinely unnerving interactions, and a villainous goat. He knocked it out of the park with his follow-up The Lighthouse, and again with The Northman, pairing absolutely stunning visuals with haunting sound design and graphic violence that left viewers' mouths agape and begging for his next release.

And it sounds like we'll be left shellshocked once more with Eggers assuring fans that Nosferatu will actually be a 'scary film' - as if there was ever any doubt our bones would be thoroughly chilled. He told Empire: "It's a horror movie. It's a Gothic horror movie. And I do think that there hasn't been an old-school Gothic movie that's actually scary in a while. And I think that the majority of audiences will find this one to be the case."

We can't wait, and as our anticipation builds, hold onto your necks as FANGORIA rounds up everything we know about the Count's latest outing with all the information you need to know about Nosferatu.

Development Background

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Since the beginning of Eggers' career, he has wanted to adapt Nosferatu for modern audiences. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly about the project, he said: "The Murnau film is one of the greatest films ever made." Adding, "It's kind of clunky. It was a low-budget indie in its day and the design for its time is very inconsistent. The sets are very expressionistic and fake. But even still, it stands up as something really incredible. It's kind of egomaniacal to hear that I'm remaking something that objectively totally doesn't need to be remade. But it still might happen!"

His passion project has been on the back burner for some time, with the vampire flick originally set to be his second feature film, which he paused until he felt ready to tackle. Speaking to Indie Wire in 2015, he explained his difficult reasoning for the delay: "It feels ugly and blasphemous and egomaniacal and disgusting for a filmmaker in my place to do Nosferatu next. I was really planning on waiting a while, but that's how fate shook out."

But his love of the tale goes back way further, with the director telling the publication that Universal and Hammer Studios' classic horror films were a staple of his childhood: "I saw a picture of Max Schreck as Count Orlok in a book in my elementary school and I lost my mind."

At the age of 17, he directed a stage version of Nosferatu in the style of Robert Wiene's The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and the rest is history with the Count firmly cemented in Eggers' heart and mind. Eggers wrote the script for Nosferatu, based on Henrik Galeen's original screenplay, with filming beginning in 2023 in and around Prague and Romania.

It is the latest collaboration between Eggers and Focus Features after 2022's The Northman and sees the director once again join forces with Columbus, who executive produced both The Witch and The Lighthouse.

Release Date Revelation

It's set to be a very merry Christmas with Nosferatu hitting cinema screens on December 25, 2024. If the spirit of Barbenheimer and Saw Patrol continues into this year, we could see some truly unhinged double bills with Disney's Lion King prequel Mufasa and Paramount sequel Sonic the Hedgehog 3 both set for release on December 20.

While the adaptation hasn't quite been a lifelong wait for genre fans like it has been for Eggers, the anticipation has been palpable with each small morsel of information lapped up hungrily by the masses. Whether it be the slow release of production information, casting choices, or first-look images and plot teasers, fans have eagerly been counting down the days until Nosferatu hits our screens - and there's less than a year to go.

Casting Choices

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When production first began on Nosferatu 2024, The Witch star Anya Taylor Joy was attached to the project in the role of Ellen Hutter, alongside pop icon turned actor Harry Styles poised to play Thomas Hutter - and not Orlok himself, as some fans speculated.

They were later replaced by The King and Tusk star Lily-Rose Depp and Renfield's Nicholas Hoult respectively, with Hollywood heavyweight Willem Dafoe joining the cast as Professor Albin Eberhart Von Franz, described by Eggers as "a crazy vampire hunter" (per Entertainment Weekly). Dafoe already had a brush with the story of Nosferatu after he appeared as Max Schreck/The Vampire in Shadow of the Vampire, a fictionalized retelling of the making of Murnau's film.

As well as starring in Kraven the Hunter this year, Aaron Taylor-Johnson will appear in Nosferatu as Friedrich Harding, while Emma Corrin will swap the British Royal Family for a different kind of horror as The Crown star takes on the role of Anna Harding. Dr Wilhelm Sievers will be played by The Witch's Ralph Ineson, with The Conjuring 2 actor Simon Mc Burney, The Perfect Escape star Stacy Thunes, and Carnival Row's Carl A Maynard appearing in supporting roles.

The question people REALLY want answered, though, is who will don the overcoat as the Count. As one of the most recognizable figures in horror, it's a tall order to do the role justice, to say the least. And the honor of becoming the creature of the night goes to horror icon Bill Skarsgård. He already has quite the reputation in the genre community due to his truly terrifying work in yet another magnificent remake - Stephen King's It. In the 2017 and 2019 adaptations by Andrés Muschietti, Skarsgård took on the role of the iconic demonic clown Pennywise and won over fans and critics alike with his performance that is straight nightmare fuel. But that hasn't been his only foray into horror, with the actor appearing in 2022 breakout hit Barbarian, dark crime drama Hemlock Grove, and another King adaptation, Castle Rock.

Fans eagerly await a glimpse of Skarsgård transformed into the beast, and Eggers has dialed up the anticipation by saying the actor is simply "not in there" when he is Nosferatu. He told Total Film: "He's so transformed in every aspect that I don't know if people will give him the credit. You can see Bill [as Pennywise] in the It makeup; you can't detect any Bill here. He worked with an opera coach to lower his voice an octave. I think people are going to think we treated it digitally, but that's his performance." He also teased the inspirations for Skarsgårdrd's performance, saying he is "honoring [those] who had come before him."

Plot Insights

Little is known about the exact plot of the upcoming film, but according to the Focus Films website, "Robert Eggers' Nosferatu is a gothic tale of obsession between a haunted young woman and the terrifying vampire infatuated with her, causing untold horror in its wake."

And Eggers himself has expanded on this, telling Empire that Nosferatu is "even more Ellen's story than previous versions," teasing that we may shift from following Thomas to his wife.

The 1922 Gothic tale of obsession and dark desires follows real estate agent Thomas Hutter, who meets the mysterious Count Orlok when he requires Hutter's services to purchase a house in Germany. During the process, the bloodthirsty Transylvanian becomes enamored with Hutter's wife, Ellen.

Sound familiar? That's because it was an unofficial adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula, the likeness of which almost got every copy of Nosferatu destroyed. The Stoker estate successfully sued the filmmakers after noticing the obvious similarities between the two stories, but Nosferatu lived on despite a court order to destroy every copy of the film - the Count himself would be so proud.

Cinematic Style and Techniques

Eggers' previous works are instantly recognizable for their muted color palettes, eerie and elaborate costumes, and their roots planted firmly in historical horror. And if the first look imagery from Nosferatu is anything to go by - check, check, and a big fat check. Early sneak peeks of Depp, Hoult, and Dafoe see them plunged into a dark and dreary world, dressed to the nines in opulent garbs, and that's before we even touch the rich lore surrounding the film itself. Nosferatu lends itself perfectly to Eggers' existing back catalog, so the legendary vampire tale feels as if it's in safe hands.

What will set this film apart from his previous work, excitingly, is Eggers pushing the boundaries of his imagination and exploring territories of his creativity so far untouched. "I'm trying to go beyond what I'm capable of," the director told Empire, while also alluding to some of the exciting scenes fans can look forward to this Christmas. Word has it, a particularly difficult shoot aboard a ship had lots of rain and waves, which took several days to film, while another took place in a topiary garden by a chateau. On the less elegant side, Eggers shot a scene with Dafoe that included 2,000 rats - a lot less glamorous than stunning foliage in a picturesque, historic building.

Cinematography Jarin Blaschke previously said that the film was shot in color, breaking away from its black-and-white origins, and was reminiscent of 19th-century Romanticism, characterized by its emphasis on individualism and raw emotion, as well as holding nature in high regard. Considering Count Orlok himself would be considered an abomination of nature, it will be interesting to see how the fundamentals of the Romantic movement are woven into the occult story - but if anyone can pull it off, it's Eggers.

Set and Costume Design

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What makes Nosferatu instantly recognizable is the imposing design of the creature himself. One of the greatest decisions Murnau made in his creative process on Nosferatu was collaborating with producer, art director, and costume designer Albin Grau, allowing his German expressionist vision to flourish onscreen. Early designs from Grau show the gnarled figure drenched in a dusty overcoat, adding to the oppressive and unnatural figure of Count Orlok. Add in a bald cap, false teeth, prosthetic ears and fingers, and you have the terrifying, gaunt image for the ages. His silhouette climbing the stairs is arguably the most iconic scene in horror history, and it's all down to the expert costume and set design.

We've already seen the elaborate costumes of Dafoe, Hoult, and Depp in first-look imagery and a glimpse of the baroque set pieces making up the fresh take on Nosferatu. The original German expressionist influences can still be seen peeking through in the 2024 remake, but we're yet to see how the idea of Romanticism and its ties to medieval and classical artwork and architecture will play into the overall look and feel of the film. But one thing is for certain - we can already sense a flair for the dramatic within Nosferatu 2024.

Music and Score

Hans Erdmann's score for the original Nosferatu is critical to the film's overall dark, eerie feel. As a silent movie, it relied heavily on its anxiety-inducing soundtrack and bizarre visuals to incite terror into its audiences - something Eggers has also accomplished within his back catalog. Music and score have already been used in The Witch, The Lighthouse, and The Northman to create an impending sense of doom even in the most mundane of scenes, but we're curious as to how sound will work in the upcoming Nosferatu as we now, of course, have the capability to incorporate dialogue into films.

Robin Carolan is credited as the driving force behind the music for Eggers' Nosferatu, having previously worked alongside the director on The Northman, collaborating with Sebastian Gainsborough under the moniker Vessel in their feature film scoring debut. The results are hair-raising, with each scene enveloped in a deafening, terrifying soundscape. So it's safe to say, we're pretty pumped to see what Carolan can achieve with this picture.

Conclusion

From a childhood obsession with Count Orlok to pushing the perceived limits of his capabilities, Eggers marks a bold new chapter for Nosferatu and horror cinema in a remake that will surely be one of the biggest releases of 2024.

After years of delays, the long-awaited project from the acclaimed director will finally see the light of day, with a star-studded cast of genre greats and a fresh take on the classic narrative. As horror fans, we all groan when yet another reboot, remake, or requel is announced as they often rehash old ground without adding anything else to say, but with Eggers shifting the focus of Nosferatu seemingly to a female perspective, it could be a gem among the boom of modern female-centered horror we have been enjoying in recent years.

While little is known about the practical aspects of the film, such as the costuming or set design, early glimpses have already got fans hyped for what's to come as we've been sucked into an intricate, extraordinary world filled with eccentric characters and a monster which, if Eggers' words are to be believed, will surely haunt our nightmares til next Christmas, at least.

What's most exciting about the prospect of Nosferatu coming to the big screen in 2024 is that it will bring the classic story to a whole new audience, modernizing a groundbreaking historic tale while also honoring its roots in German expressionism. This film feels less like yet another remake in a long line of mediocre retellings and more like a tribute to one of the genre's most influential films that will celebrate its legacy through many levels of fine artistry - from its acting to its visuals.

One thing is for certain - we can't wait to sink our teeth into Nosferatu.