Dark Shadows was a TV show
that started in 1966 as pretty much a standard soap opera. It
gradually began to introduce supernatural elements, culminating
in the arrival of vampire Barnabas Collins a year into its run.
He would go on to become an iconic character and the show a camp
cult classic. Burton had been rumoured to make the film for
years before finally committing.
Production took place in England
again (again) with Johnny Depp (again) heading a cast of
Burton regulars (again). The twon of Cllinsport was meticulously
created in 70's period detail on soundstages at Pinewood.
The film turned out to
be a beautiful looking fun romp, though it does have several
major flaws. The dark 18th century prologue, where we learn
how Barnabas Collins was cursed to become a vampire, is classic
Burton. Once the film switches to 1972, the filmmakers revel
in the look and music of that era, transporting the viewer
effortlessly to the world of Collinsport, Maine. Victoria
Winters (an amalgam of two characters from the original TV
show) is our introduction to the "present day" Collins family
and there are both unsettling moments and subtle laughs as she
becomes governess to the troubled boy David.
returns (killing the workers who discover his coffin in a
surprisingly brutal scene) the film quickly switches to
full-blown comedy (including a nice dig at the great Satan, um,
I mean McDonald's) and, aside from the odd killing, stays there
for most of the running time. While fans of the show may be
disappointed at the emphasis on humour, frankly the show was
never something to take completely seriously.
focus of the plot is Barnabas' conflict with Angelique, the
immortal witch who made him what he is. The other characters are
given short shrift, despite the talented actors playing them,
and by the time we get to the special effects driven finale,
plot has packed its bags and left the building. One character
becoming a werewolf for no apparent reason may be the final
straw for many audience members. However, despite the
failings of the script by Seth Grahame-Smith, there are many
other pleasures to be had.
||Johnny Depp may be doing the same
character schtick he's done many times before, but his
performance remains effortlessly entertaining. Michelle
Pfeiffer, making a welcome return to Burton's filmography after
playing Catwoman 20 years earlier, is equally good. Helena
Bonham Carter is a perfect fit for the scheming Dr. Hoffman,
while Eva Green makes a devilishly alluring villain.
|Jackie Earl Haley
provides laughs as the hypnotised Willie Loomis, Bella Heathcote
is alluring in the dual role of Victoria and Barnabas' original,
tragic love Josette and Cloe Grace Moretz is amusing if
underused as the teenager struggling with more than puberty.
There are also welcome cameos from several original Dark Shadows
cast members (including the late Jonathan Frid), Christopher Lee
and, most awesome of all, THE Alice Cooper.
film is gorgeous, which of course is the very least we expect
from a Burton film. The use of real sets, rather than the green
screens of Alice, is most welcome. Danny Elfman's score
is effective if not that memorable, though he does make good use
of the original TV theme. If as much care had been put into the
script as the casting and production design this could have
really been something special. It might have worked better as an
R rated movie (as it is, the violence and implied sexuality -
including a rough sex scene that rivals Buffy and Spike - pushes
the boundaries of PG-13) since it's closest in tone to
Sleepy Hollow and Sweeney Todd's black humour.
While it makes a welcome change from sparkly vampires, the film
still could have used more bite.
The film earned poor
notices from critics and had the misfortune to open a week after
The Avengers, which led to it disappointing at the box
office. Burton stayed busy, producing that summer's Abraham
Lincoln: Vampire Hunter as well as putting the finishing
touches to a stop-motion remake that would win back some of his
CHAPTER: ALICE IN WONDERLAND