Dark Shadows

Cert: 12 A Runtime: 113 mins Director: Tim Burton Starring: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Eva Green, Jackie Earl Haley, Chloe Grace Moretz and Christopher Lee

 If I can’t have you, I’ll destroy you and your family! 

Tim Burton is really God to me, I have seen every film, read tons of books and bought a lot of stuff. He is a personal hero of mine. Dark Shadows on the other hand is a show my mum used to watch on the Horror channel, so I am aware of the soaps existence. Burton has been planning this film for decades and has a real passion for it, after waiting for months for a trailer we got one and man I was very excited for it. It is very Burtonesk and also funny, the basic plot is in the year 1752, Joshua and Naomi Collins, with young son Barnabas, set sail from Liverpool, England to start a new life in America. But even an ocean was not enough to escape the mysterious curse that has plagued their family. Two decades pass and Barnabas (Johnny Depp) has the world at his feet-or at least the town of Collinsport, Maine. The master of Collinwood Manor, Barnabas is rich, powerful and an inveterate playboy…until he makes the grave mistake of breaking the heart of Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green). A witch, in every sense of the word, Angelique dooms him to a fate worse than death: turning him into a vampire, and then burying him alive. Two centuries later, Barnabas is inadvertently freed from his tomb and emerges into the very changed world of 1972. He returns to Collinwood Manor to find that his once-grand estate has fallen into ruin. The dysfunctional remnants of the Collins family have fared little better, each harboring their own dark secrets. Matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer) has called upon live-in psychiatrist, Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter), to help with her family troubles.

Fans of the original series may object to the deliberately campy tone that Burton and his screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith (with an extra story credit to Burton’s frequent writing partner John August) adopt for the movie, but those less bound by expectations will lap up Johnny Depp’s delightfully quirky rendition of Barnabas. As always, Depp is a master at facial reactions, with every twitch and raised eyebrow perfectly calibrated to elicit maximum hilarity. Depp and Burton are fully aware of the campiness, but both embrace it so wholeheartedly that you can’t quite help but be won by their fidelity.  Burton-Depp’s collaborations have always demonstrated a tremendous amount of heart for peculiar characters, and this latest reaffirms their love for characters of different quirks and idiosyncrasies.The pace of Dark Shadows does amble on with little narrative tension for most of the movie, but Burton eventually satiates the thirst for bombast in summer audiences with an extended ending made with most of the film’s inflated budget unheard of in the days of the TV series’ miniscule own.To be fair, some of that has obviously gone into the ornate sets by production designer Rick Heinrichs as well as the elaborate costumes designed by Colleen Atwood.Tim Burton’s visual work amazingly as usual, every shot in the film is beautiful and artistic. The film is not as over colourful the advertising makes it out to be, just in certain parts, a lot of the colours are actually washed out, in a good way so you won’t get a headache. As is Burton’s signature, the imagery stands out as much as the characters do, and the finale is a perfect example of the visual richness of Burton’s warped imagination brought to life with CGI. But Burton is not foolish enough to rely simply on these modern-day devices, relying too on good-old fashioned casting to ensure that his film is also a rapturous delight.

Any actor besides Depp would probably be upstaged by the fine female cast, each of whom shine not simply because of Atwood’s colourful costumes. The standout would probably be Eva Green, who plays Angelique with bewitching a plomb, projecting sass and menace with razor-sharp precision and setting off dangerous sparks with Depp as ex-lovers. With Green’s showy performance, it’s easy to ignore Pfeiffer’s more understated but no less loopy own, the actress who once played Catwoman in Burton’s ‘Batman Returns’ clearly relishing one of her best roles in recent years. Bonham Carter unfortunately gets sidelined in this film, her act as a neurotic shrink underwritten and quite out-of-place amidst the other unfolding plot lines.Chloe Grace Moretz was good as Carolyn Stoddard, it’s a radically different take but I like the character she is rebellious, really loves music mainly heavy metal, has a dry deadpan wit like her mom, and like most teens is angry but there is another reason for it which you see at the end. David was decent at least not annoying or useless like the original. But also sympathetic due to his father being a bum and mom whom passed away.Amidst the new faces, Burton also pays homage to the original actors of the TV series by inviting four of them- Jonathan Frid, Lara Parker, Kathryn Leigh Scott and David Selby- to appear briefly in the film, as well as the era’s definitive musician Alice Cooper for an extended cameo. Despite his irreverent take on the material, Burton is clearly in love with the artefacts of the ’70s, and the film’s awesome soundtrack with the likes of Moody Blues and the Carpenters is testament to that.So yes, fans of the TV series will have to accept that this big-screen adaptation is a reimagining of the original. Yet for those without that historical baggage, it is with any of the Burton-Depp collaborations that have come before it a thoroughly enjoyable visual feast filled with offbeat characters that turn out ghoulishly endearing. This is clearly a passion project for both Depp and Burton, and ‘Dark Shadows’ as its deliberately idiosyncratic title suggests is an unusual summer season offering that packs its own unique brand of kooky appeal.

7.8/10

 

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