Tim Burton + Johnny Depp + Vampires = Formulaic Fun!
* * *
Okay. Let’s get one thing clear right off the bat. I’ve never seen Dark Shadows the TV series. I’ve heard about it, sure. I knew who Barnabas Collins was. I knew it was a melodramatic soap opera. That’s about the extent of my knowledge. When I heard that a movie adaptation was in the works, I was curious. I got pretty excited when I heard that Johnny Depp was going to play Barnabas with Tim Burton directing. Being a big fan of the Burton/Depp dream team, I was looking forward to the finished product. Then I saw the trailer. I have to admit, I was a bit taken aback with the humorous tone Burton decided to take with his adaptation of Dark Shadows. However, after subsequent viewings of the trailer, it grew on me. I found myself anticipating its release (after The Avengers, of course. Priorities). And after seeing the finished product, I have to say I enjoyed it a lot. Much of that enjoyment probably stems from my lack of knowledge of the original series, which allowed me see Dark Shadows for what it is: an enjoyable, yet pretty predictable fish out of water comedic horror movie that only Tim Burton can deliver.
In 1772, after spurring the affections of a witch named Angelique (Eva Green), Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) is cursed to exist as a vampire for all eternity. To make matters worse, Angelique has Barnabas locked inside a casket and buried away.
Fast forward 200 years. Barnabas is uncovered and released by a group of construction workers. A freshly awoken and fed Barnabas makes his way to his home, Collinwood where we’re introduced to the present day incarnation of the Collins family. Including matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer), her daughter Carolyn (Chloë Grace Moretz), her brother Roger (Johnny Lee Miller), his son David (Gulliver McGrath), and David’s live-in doctor, Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter). We also get to meet Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcote), who bares a striking resemblence to Barnabas’ lost love, Josette. Unfortunately, news of Barnabas’ release reaches other, sinister ears. Can Barnabas restore the family and it’s business to it’s former glory? Can he resist the infernal charms of the witch who cursed him? Most importantly, can he find a comfortable place to sleep?
All of the actors do a pretty good job with their roles, though many of them are not as flushed out as I would have liked to have seen. For instance, I would’ve liked to have seen more from the groundskeeper, Willie (Jackie Earle Haley), and a little more backstory about the shady Roger. It’s pretty cool seeing Johnny Depp as a vampire, and he does a pretty good job as Barnabas. I also liked Helena Bonham Carter’s Dr. Hoffman. Even Christopher Lee makes a cameo in the film.
As I stated above, I went into Dark Shadows not knowing anything really about the show that inspired it, so I enjoyed the story. I thought it was a pretty entertaining film. There is a lot of humor sprinkled throughout the movie that I’m sure will not please fans of the original show, but I found the humor enjoyable. (The scene with Barnabas and the Hippies, for instance.) In all honesty, it’s not Tim Burton’s best, or Johnny Depp’s for that matter, and I did have a few issues with it. The biggest problems I have with the film stem from it’s predictability. The plot was pretty cookie cutter fare, so if you’re looking for twists and turns in this story, I’d advise you to look elsewhere. That’s not to say they didn’t try to give us a plot twist toward the end of the movie, but it just felt tacked on. Like a twist for the sake of one. It should have been developed more.
All in all, Dark Shadows is a good movie. I can understand how the infusion of humor into what is supposed to be based on a serious narrative can discourage many fans of the TV show, but if you can set your expectations aside for a couple of hours or, like me, go into it with no expectations at all, then you’ll find some fun to be had with this latest Burton/Depp collaberation.
Dark Shadows receives Hunter’s stake of approval!Have You Read...?