Movie Review: Dark Shadows

Movie Review: Dark Shadows

Dark ShadowsRating: M Distributor: Roadshow Release Date: May 10Tim Burton and Johnny Depp – together they’ve given cinema a bizarre range of memorable characters stretching from the love-challenged Edward Scissorhands to the murderous barber Sweeney Todd. Now their twisted talents combine to bring a time-travelling vampire to the big screen.Depp plays Barnabas Collins, an 18th […]

By Mark HadleyTuesday 15 May 2012MoviesReading Time: 3 minutes

Dark Shadows

Rating: M
Distributor: Roadshow
Release Date: May 10

Tim Burton and Johnny Depp – together they’ve given cinema a bizarre range of memorable characters stretching from the love-challenged Edward Scissorhands to the murderous barber Sweeney Todd. Now their twisted talents combine to bring a time-travelling vampire to the big screen.

Depp plays Barnabas Collins, an 18th century businessman who spurns the love of a serving girl, not realizing she is also a vengeful witch. Angelique (Eva Green) sets about systematically murdering Collins’ family and wife, and finishes by transforming him into a vampire and burying him in an iron box. Barnabas lies undisturbed for close to two centuries before a hapless construction crew unearths his prison. After making a snack of the workers – “I’m sorry but you cannot imagine how thirsty I am…” – he returns to his ancestral home to discover that time hasn’t been kind to his descendants. The Collins’ fishing business is in ruins, its once great mansion a tumbledown wreck and the family a collection of the anti-social, inept and disturbed. The matriarch, Elizabeth Collins-Stoddard tells the new nanny, “Welcome to Collinwood. You’ll have to imagine us on a better day.”

And if the humble state of the Collins weren’t enough to deal with, Barnabas has emerged into the 1970s where lava lamps look like lights made from congealed blood, and Karen Carpenter and Steve Miller vie for the ears of a nation. Worse, the witch Angelique has endured, having spent the centuries building up a fishing empire of her own. Barnabas finds that the same unrequited love that transformed him into a monster is prepared to ruin him all over again if he doesn’t submit to her affections.

Dark Shadows is a remake of a popular 1960s television series, and a trademark film for Tim Burton executed in the style of Beetlejuice and Sleepy Hollow. It’s also a reunion of sorts for the creative talents involved: the director’s eighth film with Johnny Depp, his seventh film with Helena Bonham Carter, his fifth film with Christopher Lee, and his second film with Michelle Pfeiffer. Depp immerses himself as usual in a bizarre personality that lures you into liking him, before abruptly reminding the viewer what we’re dealing with. In a ludicrous, soft-shot moment Barnabas reveals his conflicted feelings about Angelique and the new nanny Victoria Winters to a group of peace-loving hippies, and draws his wisdom from Erich Segal’s schmaltzy novel Love Story:

“Love means never having to say you’re sorry. However, it is with sincere regret that I must now kill all of you.”

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– which he does because, let’s face it, he’s a vampire. And in doing so he unearths the underlying message of the film.

Dark Shadows makes no apologies for Barnabas Collins’ blood-sucking ways, nor does it regret the steps he takes to ensure the family fortunes. “Family is the only real wealth,” he frequently remarks, and love the only justification needed. When he finally manages to connect with the love of his life – I’ll leave that mystery to the cinema – it also doesn’t seem to matter that they are both doomed to be vampires for eternity. As the film’s tagline puts it, ‘Every family has its demons’ and it seems that they shouldn’t be any real cause for alarm so long as we’re happy. Dark Shadows ends up a humorous romp through Tim Burton’s gothic imagination, but watch out for the very modern landmine: “If I can’t help what I am, then I owe it to myself to be happy.”