Nadja (1995): Almereyda’s Vampire Tale, Exec-Produced by David Lynch, Starring Peter Fonda

Made in 1995, Nadja unfolds as a languid dream puzzle set, in the nether world of downtown Manhattan. Michael Almereyda’s blend of the serious and frivolous recalls David Lynch, who served as the film’s executive producer, and also appears in a cameo.


Vampires stalk downtown New York in a stunningly executed film that mixes black-and-white 35mm and Pixelvision. Almereyda paints a portrait of a dysfunctional vampire family, not unlike the one in Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark. Like Bigelow, Almereyda decorates scenes of vampire-hunting with pop psychology.

“As you get older, you begin to realize that family is all that matters,” says Jim.

The vast majority of vampire movies are retreads, but some innovative takes continue to appear. In contrast, Nadja, at once an update of Bram Stoker’s novel and a satire of it, proved there was still room for variation in the vampire concept. Andy Klein pointed out that in subject matter, the film is Corman, in style, New York underground.

Peter Fonda as a vampire killer represents the former, and Hal Hartley’s veterans Elina Lowensohn and Martin Donovan, the latter. The tone is set by the physically imposing, self-possessed modern vampire (played by Lowenshon), who is the main focus. But after creating an intriguing setup of vampires in nocturnal Manhattan, the narrative gets diffuse, cutting among too many characters that are less intriguing.

Almereyda, who pioneered the use of the toy Pixelvision video camera in Another Girl, Another Planet, has reprised its use here in scenes that relate the vampire’s state of mind. The grainy, impressionistic images contrast vividly with Jim Denault’s cinematography. The opening montage is shot with a Fisher-Price PXL 2000 camera–the out-of-production “toy” video camera, favored by experimental filmmakers. In Nadja, the PXL footage presents the POV of Nadja, Dracula’s daughter.

As she picks up her latest victim at a nightclub, Nadja is psychically informed her father is finally dead. Dr. Van Helsing (Peter Fonda, playing the vampire as a long-haired 1960s burnout) is being held for the Count’s murder. While his nephew, Jim (Donovan) bails him out, Jim’s wife, Lucy (Galaxy Craze), has a chance meeting with Nadja, who transforms her into the undead. Jim and Van Helsing track Lucy to Nadja’s apartment, where she has recently moved her brother, Edgar (Jared Harris), and his nurse, Cassandra (Suzy Amis).

The film’s characters are from two families; Cassandra is Van Helsing’s daughter. Nadja moves into a dreamy insular world, where the generations-old struggle between the Draculas and the Van Helsings unfolds.

Despite some dramatic problems, Nadja succeeds in maintaining its appeal due to the peculiar atmosphere, impressive style, variegated sound and campy dialogue.

“He was tired, lost,” Van Helsing says about Dracula’s death. “He was like Elvis in the end, surrounded by zombies.”

Directed, written by Michael Almereyda
Produced by Mary Sweeney, Amy Hobby
Written by Michael Almereyda
Music by Simon Fisher Turner
Cinematography Jim Denault
Edited by David Leonard

Production company: Kino Link Company

Distributed by October Films

Release date: September 1, 1995

Running time: 93 minutes
Language English
Budget $1 million
Box office $443,169