Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Vampyr - Der Traum des Allan Grey is truly one of the most disturbing films ever made. It’s totally unlike most modern horror movies – there are no sudden scares, there’s no gore, there’s almost no plot. What it does have is a succession of images of isolation and alienation and dread, images that are more unsettling because they’re so mysterious. Nothing is clear-cut, the line between dream and wakefulness and between delirium and reality isn’t just blurred, it’s completely erased.
The picture is incredibly fuzzy and washed out but this isn’t because the film has deteriorated, it’s how Dreyer wanted it. The story goes that the film camera they were using had a small hole in it which resulted in the film being partially exposed so that the picture had huge areas that were completely washed out, huge patches of vivid whiteness. Dreyer was delighted, and decided the whole movie would be shot that way! And he was correct – it doesn’t seem like a gimmick, it just seems totally right. As well as the blotches of intense whiteness the movie has shadows everywhere, shadows which might be the shadows of people or maybe they’re shadows without people.