|Barnabas does his supernatural homework|
"My name is Barnabas Collins. Two centuries ago, I made Collinwood my home... until a jealous witch cursed me, condemning me to the shadows, for all time."The rest of the film (mostly) follows the romantic problems of Barnabas. He has a fling with the beautiful young witch Angelique (Eva Green), who is obsessed with him, but he doesn't love her, and is soon head-over-heels in love with the sweet Josette (Bella Heathcote). This only spells disaster for all, as Angelique eliminates both Josette and Barnabas's parents and curses her ex-lover to eternal life as a vampire. Cue the trippy music and it's 1972 where a local excavation uncovers Barnabas's coffin. After a little mass-murder and midnight snack, the vampire heads for his beloved family seat, Collinwood, like a supernatural homing pigeon.
Burton has always been more interested in visuals than story, and Dark Shadows reflects this. Where the director falters is in his characterization. He gives Depp free reign, of course, and the actor throws himself wholeheartedly into the role of a man whose passions and sense of family can survive across the centuries. The only consistent plotline is Angelique's revenge, which Green embraces with enthusiastic fury. When Depp and Green are together onscreen sparks fly. But Barnabas's interactions with all the other cast members, especially Maggie Evans/Victoria Winters (also played by Bella Heathcote), are rather pale. Characters are introduced, and then as quickly dropped, as Burton heads onto the next set piece. Is Victoria a reincarnation of Josette? The audience is never told. Maybe Burton forgot. Helena Bonham Carter tries to inject the drunken Dr. Julia Hoffman with some verve, and there is a scene between Depp and Michelle Pfieffer, as Collins matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, that manages, with a nod and a wink to the original series, to capture the over-the-top melodramatic dialogue that made it such a cult classic. Chloe Grace Moretz, who has been wonderful in other films (Let Me In, Hugo) is dreadful here as written — one-note and dull as Elizabeth's bored and angtsy teenager Carolyn Stoddard. A last-minute plot twist almost excuses her character's bad behavior, but feels tacked on and too little, too late.
Burton has always been faithful to his favorite actors, and horror fans will be thrilled to see Christopher Lee, no stranger to vampire films himself, in a cameo midway through the film. Fans of the original Dark Shadows series will also be happy to see some of its stars briefly featured in a party scene, but it went by quickly and I was disappointed to not be able to spot original Barnabas Jonathan Frid. I did see Lara Parker (original Angelique), David Selby (Quentin) and Kathryn Leigh Scott (original Josette/Maggie) in the background.
|The sets, costumes, and Michelle Pfieffer look fabulous|
The one area where the look of the film leaves me cold is the make-up. The pancake is laid on so thick on Depp that he at times seems more clown than vampire, which begs the question why some of the Collins family seem surprised when his true identity is revealed. Did they really think he was human? Thick white make-up is another Burton trademark. The guy likes what he likes and he's not likely to change his tastes at this late date. Maybe he has never gotten over Nicholson's Joker ...
|The darkest shadows are on Johnny Depp's cheeks and eyes|