Director- Tim Burton
Running Time- 113 min
Rated PG 13
I have enjoyed most of director Tim Burton's work during the course of his career. So whenever I see a movie of his for the first time, I pretty much know what to expect and how much I'm going to enjoy it and this movie was no different.
“Dark Shadows” based on the 1966-71 gothic horror soap opera of the same name, is another in a series of movies by Burton based on other material- “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, “Planet of the Apes”, “Batman”, “Sleepy Hollow”, “Sweeny Todd”, “Pee Wee's Big Adventure” and “Alice In Wonderland”. But despite not being responsible for his movie origins, every project including this one is given an all-too-recognizable “Burton” spin to it. Sleek, chic, odd and morbid are run-of-the-mill in Burton fare. His movies are also beautiful and charming with an ever-present innocence struggling to fit in in a perverse world.
This film stars (as do many Burton films) Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins, a 200-year-old vampire who is accidentally unearthed in 1972. He returns to his childhood home of Collinwood Manor to find his estate and family business have been run into the ground by Angelic Bouchard, played by Eva Green. She is a witch and the jealous ex-lover of Barnabas. She is also the one who places the curse of Barnabus making him a vampire in the first place and the one who has him imprisoned by the townspeople, wrapped in chains, in a coffin, underground, out of scorn over him not returning her affections of love.
Once home he meets his descendant cousin Elizabeth, played by Michelle Pfeiffer, who runs both the estate and struggling family business and who is convinced of Barnabas' identity only after he proves it by use of his knowledge of the manor's secret rooms and treasures. He also meets the other residents- Willie Loomis, the family servant, played by Jackie Earle Haley, David Collins, the young boy who sees the ghost of his dead mother about, played by Gulliver McGrath, Maggie Evans, who changes her name to Victoria and wants to be called Vicky, who arrives shortly before Barnabas, her having answered a newspaper ad to be David's governess, she is played by Bella Heathcote. There is also Elizabeth's rebellious 15-year-old daughter Carolyn, played by Chloe Grace Moretz, Roger, David's father, played by Jonny Lee Miller and David's psychiatrist Dr. Julia Hoffman, played by Helena Bonham Carter, who is also in a lot of Burton films and is also Burton's real-life wife.
The movie's plot lacks focus. Barnabas tries to return his family name to its former glory while resisting the advances of the evil Angelic all the while trying to win the affections of Victoria by befriending Carolyn who tries to acclimate Barnabas with the attitude of the 1970's. Lost in the crowded shuffle is David's story, he is chalked up to a lost cause by his psychiatrist who spends the movie instead swindling Barnabas of his vampire blood so she can live longer. The relationship of Victoria and David is set up to be important and then is forgotten and is replaced with Barnabas' courtship of her which doesn't require any of the outside help Barnabas seeks in order to foster it, the two feeling destined to be together.
The strength of the movie comes from Depp and his mannered performance. His delightful English/Colonial accent and morbid way about him have become his trademarks as much as Burton's. He is funny and believable even as he plays ridiculous characters like this one. The dialogue is good and at times is a very good mixture of 18th century and 1970's Maine. The characters are under developed keeping them from being as interesting as they could be although they are all quirky on the surface.
Overall I got out of it what I expected. A campy, quirky, morbid, mildly funny, based on something else movie that- while it fits in with the rest of Burton's films- is far from his best.
Review Grade- C+