I am a huge Johnny Depp fan. I love the crazy characters he plays. I find him to be engaging and entertaining every time he is on screen and his portrayal of Barnabas Collins is no different. Though Dark Shadows is one of the weaker Tim Burton/ Johnny Depp collaborations, it is a definitely still worth seeing.
A reboot of an old television show, the film follows the story of the illustrious Collins family. Beginning when they came across the seas from England in the 1700’s, the Collins settled down to create a fishing monopoly. As their business grew, the Collins used their wealth to build a mansion and eventually the town of Collinsport. The youngest Collins, Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) falls in love with a young woman, Josette DuPress (Bella Heathcote), and has a young woman fall in love with him, Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green). Scorned when he is not willing to return her affections, Angelique (who is actually a witch) decides to ruin Barnabas’ life. As if killing his parents and Josette, turning him into a vampire and locking him in a box for 200 years (well actually 196), Angelique lives forever and dedicates her life to destroying the Collins family. When Barnabas is finally freed, Angelique, now Angie, has nearly run the Collins family out of business by taking over the fishing and canning industry in Collinsport. The rest of the film follows Barnabas as he tries to rebuild the reputation of his family and rid himself of Angie’s curse for good.
While the film features a cast of ghastly characters, including a Josette look alike who can see ghosts, the Collins son David (Gulliver McGrath) who can also see ghosts, the drunken doctor Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter) and the Collins daughter Carolyn Stoddard (Chloe Grace Moretz) who has a secret of her own, it is also hilariously funny. Much of the film’s humor comes from the time period in which it is set: the 1970’s. Barnabas is hilariously forced to acclimate to a world full of lava lamps (which he calls blood chalices), headlights (which he calls the Devil’s eyes) and Chevys (while he is used to horses). Barnabas’ British driven speeches deliver a number of eloquent one liners that necessitate a moment’s thought before the humor actually sinks in. Every member of the Collins family plays their parts perfectly, from the would be hippie Carolyn to Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer) who uses her no nonsense attitude to easily accept Barnabas’ vampirism and help him raise the family back to power. Even Willie Loomis, the mansion’s groundskeeper, adds his own brand of dry, drunken humor to the film.
Burton’s own unique direction style is obviously apparent throughout the film. Though the film is set in the 1970’s, Burton still manages to make a number of his locals otherworldly and supernatural. A lot of the film takes place in the giant and beautiful Collins’ mansion but even the town surrounding it seems to come straight from a ghost story. Covering his characters in a pale makeup, with Burton behind the camera it is difficult to decide what drove the film more, the scenery or the characters. My only real complaint about the film was the story itself. Though the movie was just over two hours, I feel as if the story could have used more time or (though I rarely suggest this) maybe even a sequel. The story tried to fit so many supernatural elements into one film that some of the background for the characters got lost in the shuffle. Characters reveal supernatural aspects of themselves at random times, with no clues as to why they are supernatural, which just didn’t sit well with me. This choice is story telling could be because the film is based on an old television show of the same name, a campy show whose style the film may have tried to imitate but I found myself craving a more detailed story. I give the film a 7 out of 10. If you are a Tim Burton fan, especially a Burton Depp collaboration fan, then I would highly recommend it.