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Let's get one thing clear. Willem Dafoe, while not the most adorable guy in creation, definitely has a little cute thing going on. So it's absolutely creepy to see him as the titular character in Shadow of the Vampire.

Hey, Academy Award people! I found your Best Supporting Actor for this year! See the guy in the pasty makeup and the beaver teeth? That guy!

Let me tell you how much I loved Willem Dafoe in this flick. Um ... you know what? Let me give you the lowdown on the plot first. Remember that black and white vampire movie, Nosferatu? Let's say the lead actor, Max Schreck (Dafoe), wasn't just a method actor diving head first into the role. Let's say that really was blood on his breath. And his coat, and his shirt, and his hands ...

John Malkovich plays F.W. Murnau, the director obsessed with making his perfect movie. Schreck tests his resolve by eating the crew. When Murnau asks, "Why not the script girl?" Schrek grins wickedly and states, "I'll eat her later." And Director Boy's idea of a candy-coated dream begins to disintegrate.

Meanwhile, Schreck's demands keep getting more outlandish. Schreck won't go to sea to film a scene, so Murnau's crew builds a ship next to his castle. (It makes an oh-so-cool backdrop to a fireside scene when Schreck, discussing what he thought of Dracula with two crew members, reaches into the night air, grabs a bat, rips its head off and drains it dry.) Not only that, but Schreck's payment leads up to a half-hilarious, half-spooky final scene -- Schreck wants the lead actress (Catherine McCormack) for dinner.

Okay, and for reaching second base. (Wait ... is hands-on second base? Or third base? Oh, never mind.)

Willem Dafoe in this movie is Nosferatu...Schreck...whatever he is, he's it. Even if you know Dafoe lurks under the fake ears and tall-girl shoulder hunch, you can't find him. Let's make it official -- outside of the kid in Billy Elliot, my favorite movie all year long -- this qualifies as my favorite performance.

Not to ignore the rest of the cast -- John Malkovich is ... well, he's always great, so why waste space, right? Catherine McCormack makes a perfect bitchy lead actress, and...and I saw Cary Elwes! And he's cute again! Remember how in Liar, Liar he looked all pasty and nerdy and kinda swollen? Well, he fixed that, and he got a nice haircut and his smile's not so goofy…and oh my God, how much do I need to pay to check out his abs?

Okay, Jennifer. Breathe. Breathe. And for crying out loud, stop drooling.

Jennifer Matarese

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