Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows is a “remake” of the popular 1960s television drama (or soap opera, if you will) of the same name. The story of a vampire who returns for the love of his family, here, Johnny Depp plays the inimitable Barnabas Collins. Once the toast of the small and growing town of Collinswood, Maine, he had the bad fortune to catch the eye and heart of a witch. The problem is, he didn’t return her love. So she cursed his true love and forced her, in a trance, to take a deadly flying leap.
And Cursed Barnabas to live for all eternity as a vampire.
In this movie, Barnabas returns to Collinswood, now basking in the psychedelic glow of the 70s, and finds the Collins family nearly living on skid row, with an uptight teenage daughter and a troubled young boy in their midst. The boy, poor dear, lost his mother to suicide but swears he sees and talks to her ghost. His psychologist, Victoria, is working with him to try to help the dear lad separate fantasy from reality.
And when Barnabas sees her, well, he’s instantly in love. It can only be his Victoria returned from the dead. He’ll win her heart he thinks, and bring the family back from oblivion. So long as the matriarch of the family keeps his secret, that he’s 100 year old vampire.
But time has been kind to Collins’ enemies as well and the witch Angelique returns, determined to shred the last vestiges of the Collins family legacy. She controls all but one of the fishing boats in town, and despite Barnabas’ best efforts, that control isn’t going to slip easily. She’ll compromise, however, if Barnabas will bow to her whims and become her lover.
I was far too young to watch the series when it first came on television, and I guess I’m glad I was. I’ve heard lots of bad press about this movie from fans of the television show, and quite frankly the previews made the thing look dreadful. (And Burton’s movies are always, always hit and miss for me. Beetlejuice, good, Willy Wonka bad. Nightmare before Christmas, one of my all time favorite Christmas movies.)
Because of all that, I didn’t have high hopes going into Dark Shadows, and those aforementioned friends of mine who are fans of the show wouldn’t see if it you tied them up like Alex in Clockwork Orange.
It’s well-known (and damn near his trademark) that Burton has a dreadful habit of destroying—erm, I mean, “reimagining” other people’s masterpieces, however… I was quite pleased with how Burton handled this. It has its highly cheesy moments, and if you’ve seen the trailer…you’ve seen about 98% of them. But the story is really good, very dark and broody and almost suspenseful. I felt for poor Barnabas and Victoria and rooted for them to win. And even the cheese factor wasn’t too bad. (I admit it, I found the Alice Cooper section a nice little touch and would’ve loved it if they’d included the entire performance in the extras (gee, wouldn’t that’ve been a good idea, DVD manufacturers, you think?). But hey. I do like his music anyway. >:)) and he pulled together an interesting cast around his core worshippers of Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. Eva Green did her best at Angelique, I suppose but I’d rather see her in Camelot or reprising her role as the witch in Golden Compass (where is that sequel??) By god, Burton even conned—erm, hired—Christopher Lee to be in Dark Shadows!
And the ghost! The first couple times Victoria sees her…well, it’s not as creepy as say, The Grudge, or Sixth Sense (*shudder*) but nicely done.
Despite it’s missteps, all in all, I really enjoyed Dark Shadows, and if you go in with an open mind (and maybe with low expectations), you just might enjoy it too.