Nosferatu was an early German horror film made in 1922 by director F.W. Murnau. While the film was one of the first cinematic takes on the Dracula legend, it was not actually approved by the Stoker estate. Because of this, all copies of the film were required to be rounded up and destroyed. However, the film was never fully suppressed because of the enormity of the task – the film had already spread across the globe and too many people did not want to part with it. Although the Stoker estate attempted to stop the spread of the film, it was already too late; the film had already achieved cult classic status as an eerie and otherworldly work. Today the film can be obtained for free legally as it has fallen into public domain.
Nosferatu was extremely important to the development of both horror films and Dracula based narratives that followed it. Although illegal, as a German expressionist film the picture used several cinematic techniques that influenced Universal’s 1931 version and are still frequently in the genre today. In fact, many of the attributes of the film are now seen as staples of the horror genre. The use of low key lighting, shadows and special effects were all used in the creation of this silent film. When used together these visual effects helped the film establish the villain “Count Orlok” as a terrifying supernatural beast that should be feared. The chiaroscuro lighting that helped hide the monster in the shadows, show approaching danger and contrast images is still widely used in modern horror films.