Robert Eggers’ Nosferatu Trailer Promises the Dracula Movie We’ve Been Waiting For

The first trailer for Robert Eggers’ Nosferatu is now online and it is ferociously macabre—something Dracula and vampire movies haven’t been in ages.

Nosferatu Remake
Photo: Focus Features

There must be something in the air (or perhaps just the blood) when the internet could get so worked up over a vampire movie trailer that wasn’t even online. Focus Features indeed exhumed an old school—and perhaps too often neglected—marketing trick when they put a coveted teaser only in theaters where it played for days ahead of its online debut. Attached since Thursday only to the healthy opening of elegiac gang drama The Bikeriders, the first trailer for Robert Eggers’ Nosferatu left cinephiles floored. And those who didn’t see it have been suffering from a severe case of FOMO.

That’s all over now though. After days of building buzz among fans of horror, arthouse cinema, and those who are just looking for something a little more sinister in their moviegoing diets, the Nosferatu trailer is at last online and it is a bleak, lascivious delight.

A remake of a German Expressionist masterpiece released more than a hundred years ago, Robert Eggers’ take of Nosferatu has become a white whale among genre aficionados, and the first trailer has given good vindication for that anticipation. Draped in a brisk and unrelenting air of doom and madness, the teaser looks to be the first genuine attempt to conjure the lurid appeal of vampire folklore, and Bram Stoker’s landmark 1897 novel in particular, since probably Francis Ford Coppola’s quite different take on more or less the same material from 30 years ago.

To be sure, we’ve had a glut of vampire movies since then, and even a couple of mediocre Dracula movies released by Universal Pictures last year alone. However, so many of those misfires and disappointments were founded on the misguided notion that you must “reinvent” or “reimagine” why those stories speak to us in the first place. Eggers, conversely, has made his career on reaching toward what he once described to me as “Jungian leanings;” the filmmaker welcomes the idea that we all share half-forgotten memories and fears in the collective subconscious, and he’d like to waken those dormant anxieties back into the light. Hence how he could both critique the oppressive theology of Calvinism in The Witch while instilling the genuine fear of God (or at least a black goat) in the viewer by way of authentic New England folklore; he also illuminated the maritime isolation and despair that informs so much of our nautical mythology in The Lighthouse.

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Through it all, and for nearly a decade, Eggers has been attempting to do the same with his intended Nosferatu remake, a project which he began developing right after The Witch took Sundance by storm in 2015 and that came close to production at several points in time (previous attempts even almost starred frequent Eggers muses Robert Pattinson and Anya Taylor-Joy). But the appeal was always to get back to the underlying dread, and perhaps desire, that informs our fascination with vampires.

“The vampire played by Max Schreck [in the original Nosferatu] is a combination of the folk vampire, of the literary vampire that actually has roots in England before Germany, and also [has roots in] Albin Grau, the producer/production designer’s occultist theories on vampires,” Eggers told Bloody Disgusting in 2019. “So he’s not a traditional folk vampire, but it’s much closer to that than Stoker, even though obviously Stoker is using a lot of folklore that he’s researched to create his vampire. But Dracula is finally much more an extension of the literary vampire that was started by John Polidori, based on Byron.”

Aye, the F.W. Murnau classic Nosferatu, which is arguably the first film ever made about vampires (and certainly the first masterpiece that influences so much to this day), is an infamously unauthorized adaptation of Dracula—an act of copyright theft that led to a devastating holy war against the film by Stoker’s rightfully outraged widow Florence Balcombe Stoker who attempted to have all prints of the film burned. Yet while the film adapted the overarching structure of Stoker’s novel, there is something specifically perverse about its depiction of the vampire, which was informed by its occultist producer who still had his foot set firmly in the 19th century folklore that was commonplace in central Europe about the Undead.

Murnau’s Nosferatu is an unassailable classic, but seeing the filmmaker behind The Witch and The Lighthouse get to dig up all that fertile, Jungian soil beneath the surface of the original in his own interpretation has always appealed to admirers of Eggers and vampire fiction in general. And now the Nosferatu trailer seems to make good on that insidious appeal. Filled with images that draw not only from Nosferatu but other German Expressionist classics like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (just look at Willem Dafoe’s vampire hunter!), the new Nosferatu trailer plays more overtly with its cinematic heritage than previous Eggers movies. Nonetheless, the world appears just as grounded in historical detail as Eggers’ previous films, even as it emulates Stoker’s classic setup with a solicitor (Nicholas Hoult) leaving his betrothed (Lily-Rose Depp) alone as he travels to the wild far east of Europe and to a crumbling castle where he intends to invite an ancient aristocrat into his port city home. Blood and pestilence will follow.

The last major Hollywood attempt to adapt the Dracula storyline more than 30 years ago came from an auteur obsessed with capturing a dreamlike un-naturalism in the material—he even returned to the magician’s and photography tricks that predated the making of Nosferatu. Eggers’ take on roughly the same story feels far more grounded in the disturbing idea of Death itself—with all its pestilence, disease, and wanton destruction—manifesting into a ghastly revenant from a lost age. And one doesn’t need to be a Jungian, or for that matter Freudian, psychiatrist to unpack the double-meaning of “He is Coming.”

Like the best vampire stories, that threat is dreadful… but impossible to resist.

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Nosferatu comes to theaters on Dec. 25, 2024.