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Let me begin by saying I LOVE Tim Burton films. He has never produced a single thing I've honestly hated... Until now. Forget burning down the town at the end of the film. They should have burned down the house with the Collins' still in it, and left Barnabas underground.
The story follows the awakening of Barnabas Collins, who sets about trying to restore his family business and fortunes alongside his quirky little modern day family. He's been absent from the world for nearly two hundred years ... So surely this should be hilarious, right? Wrong. I don't even really know what genre this is supposed to be, it's some sort of bizarre attempt at comedy, supernatural, coming of age mass of silly string. It centres around one storyline, that despite being of minimal interest, overshadows all the subplots that could have been of far greater interest, such as Victoria's abilities or her connection with Barnabas.
I think what butchers this film is a real lack of character development, with the possible exception of the daughter seemingly deciding to become a werewolf at the end of the film. Other than that, every character pretty much remains at a standstill. The backstory with Barnabas/Angelique isn't explored as throughly as could be, nor his relationship with Victoria. The focus however, is primarily on Barnabas, leaving little room for the rest of the cast, who just seem to happily swan along with his plans.
Barnabas himself conforms to every vampire stereotype, there's nothing new or novel to him. I'm not saying I want him to be Edward Cullen, struggling with the beast within or anything, but he falls flat.
The plot itself hardly holds the viewer in a vice like grip, it's possible to fall asleep for twenty minutes, wake up, and to not have missed anything significant! By the end of the film, obviously, Barnabas is a roaring success story and has disposed of the villain Angelique.
It's quirky, quite fun in a childish like way, scenes such as Barnabas' confusion over Alice Copper providing a little bit of entertainment. But other than that, it's a poor attempt at a comedy that falls flat on it's face.
Produced by Tim Burton and released in 2012 "Dark Shadows" is a Fantasy / comedy film staring Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Eva Green, Chloë Grace Moretz and Christopher Lee.
The plot of which is based around the character Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) who after turning down the advances and breaking the heart of Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green) finds himself cursed to a fate worse than death - life as a vampire - and is buried alive (so to speak) for nearly two hundred years. When he is accidently released from his grave, he walks into a very different world where his family are in ruins and the woman (who condemned him to this existence) is still alive and very rich, with her empire built upon the remains of his families. Barnabas returns to his family estate of Collinwood Manor with a very unusual collection of family and friends determined to restore them all to their former glory whatever the cost.
Dark Shadows is a typical Tim Burton film and is gothic, surreal and vampire/witch based while being rather entertaining with a good undertone of comedy and just a bit of gore. The visuals throughout are stunning as is the epic soundtrack (can't go wrong with Paranoid from Ozzy). A lot of work has went into costumes, backdrops and locations all of which help to enhance your viewing experience.
The acting in Dark Shadows is excellent from pretty much all the cast with Johnny Depp (playing a English aristocrat very well) and Helen Bonham once again paired together and again living up to previous performances. I feel that Chloë Grace Moretz is underused however and her character seems to take more of a background role until towards the end of the film.
While the actual plot of the film works well and it pretty enjoyable, a few of the subplots that run thought are pretty poor and under developed. One of the characters mother is missing presumed dead, while the "twist" towards the end of the film while funny and unexpected doesn't really work that well.
One of the films failing and why I feel it gets such a mixed range of reviews is that it doesn't quite know what direction to head in. The movie trailers made it look like a laugh out loud comedy which while it has its moments it's not. It's actually a curious mixture of comedy, campiness, horror, drama and family which seem to fight each other at times for domination.
While Dark Shadows isn't the best film of the year and by no means the best Tim Burton film #not even making it to his top three# it is still enjoyable and entertaining. These days that is all you can really hope for in a film and in that respect it doesn't disappoint. If your looking for a good vampire theme film that's the complete opposite to the Twilight films then you've found it.
With the Twilight saga bringing Vampires back into the mainstream it has almost brought about the introduction of new genres of films for the nocturnal creatures. Prior to the Twilight movies a Vampire movie was designed to scare the viewers, however by bringing in the romantic element it has brought about a number of new movies in different genres, where Vampires are no longer creatures to be feared, something that would perhaps have Dracula turning in his coffin. One of the more recent outings is in the Tim Burton directed Dark Shadows, it's a remake of a classic American Tv show from the 1960's and Burton has put a comedic twist on the original drama and having enjoyed the majority of his movies I was quite looking forward to this film.
Having crossed the wrong woman in 1772, Barnabas Collins goes from being a thriving business man in Collinsport, Maine to being a hunted outcast following a spell cast by Angelique Bouchard who places a curse on him making him a Vampire. Fast forward two centuries and Barnabas is freed from his captivity by a group of construction workers. Now finding himself in 1972 he returns to his old estate to find his descendants have fallen on hard times and his beloved estate has fallen into disrepair. Having returned to a different time Barnabas discovers a lot has changed, except for one thing, Angelique is still in Collinsport and still wants to be with him but will he rekindle their relationship or has someone else caught his eye.
As with all Tim Burton directed movies there are those that will love it regardless and then there are those that will hate it because of him. I actually fall somewhere in the middle. I enjoy a lot of his films but equally there are some I've really not taken to. What I feel Tim Burton does well is slightly darker themed movies and that's perhaps wht makes him the ideal choice to direct something like Dark Shadows. He creates an atmosphere around his characters and their surroundings that fits the theme of the movie rellu well. For me though he just doesn't really set the present I've quite right and it feels a bit more like 2002 rather than 1972.
It's fair to say that Dark Shadows is filled with Burtons trademark dark humour and at times it is very funny but for me the whole film really lacked something. There wasn't really a spark to keep me interested throughout and whilst the script was quite amusing and the film looked pretty good, it Just didn't really seem to be much more than average. I had never seen the original series and whilst I'm sure Burton's take on the original has taken it in a different direction, nothing about the film really made me want to look up the series and become aquainted with it.
Of course no Tim Burton film would be complete without a role for Johnny Depp and this is very much the case here as Depp takes the lead role as Banabas Collins. As usual with Depp he brings a lot of his manurisms to the role and Barnabas reminds me a lot of Depp's portrayal of Jack Sparrow, only with considerably less rum. It's with his unique sense of humour and quirky out look that stops Barnabas from being an average, run of the mill character and iNstead makes him interesting enough to make this movie worth watching.i think the biggest issue for Tim Burton though was the lack of chemistry between Depp and Eva Green who played Angelique.
Whilst there feelings were supposed to be totally one way it felt more like an evil sense of revenge than a portrayal of lust and romance on Green's part. She just didn't seem to suit the romantic side of the role, whilst the evil and twisted side did seem to work really well. It was a shame as there was certainly a sense of chemistry between Depp and other members of the cast but the one cast member it should have been with just didn't seem to click. From a casting point of view though the film does work despite this minor blip and that is really what makes it enjoyable. The comedic element of the film is certainly provided by Depp's portrayal of Barnabas and without his normal collaboration with Burton this film would have probably failed massively.
Overall this is a pretty good film, I wouldn't say it was excellent and it certainly isn't particularly new but it takes the Vampire genre in a totally different direction. It proves that Vampire comedies don't have to star Leslie Nelson and that its possible to make a dark and funny movie staying true to the ethics of Vampire movies. Of course as the popularity of the creatures of the night continues to thrive I'm sure there will be more and more attempts to put them into funny situations but at least Burton has set the stall out early and whilst his portrayal of the time period hasn't really worked, the attempt to make Vampires reasonably funny has worked and with the help of Depp they've made a film that could have been better but it is amusing and delivers almost 2 hours of amusement that certainly kept me entertained if nothing else.
Dark Shadows [12a]
Released: 2012, Run time: 113 minutes, Genre: Comedy, Fantasy.
Film only review.
Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) is a wealthy, charismatic gentleman and heir to the Collins estate. He has an eye for the ladies and one lady in particular, Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green) but fickle in nature Barnabas moves onto a new love and discards Angelique. As the saying goes 'hell hath no fury like a woman scorned' and Angelique is no exception. She uses her supernatural gifts to turn Barnabas into a vampire and dooms him to a fate worse than death but her revenge is not over there. She imprisons him in a coffin and buries him deep underground. For two centuries Barnabas remains underground until an accidental discovery frees him from his tomb. He awakens in 1972 to discover a whole new world, a world with neon lights, interesting terrain and 'tiny songstresses' imprisoned in television sets. But more important than that in this new world the Collins empire has been destroyed and the family name sullied and the new top dog in town is none other than his jilted lover, Angelique.
Will Barnabas ever be able to restore his family's name and fortune, will Angelique ever gain her true love and hearts desire and what will happen to the man who is doomed to wander the earth forever?
I love Tim Burton. I love Helena Bonham Carter and I adore Johnny Depp. I loved Chloe Grace Moretz in Kick Ass, Eva Green was outstanding in Channel 4's Camelot and Jonny Lee Miller blew my socks off in his recent appearance in Dexter and so, based on the impressive cast list, this film should have been a show stopper...but it wasn't. It was, dare I say it, boring and massively underdeveloped.
The film is a typical Burton/Carter/Depp offering, something which I usually love. A general subject matter, re-imagined and given a healthy dose of 'gothic glamour'. Burton has done a great job with costumes, make up and set design. This film visually competes well with other Burton films but it all falls apart when it comes to the script. Burton/ Carter/ Depp collaborations are not typically famed for their outstanding, deep, moving storylines but this film was noticeably lacking in story. The general storyline of the cursed family, unrequited love, witches, ghosts and ghouls is palatable but the external storylines are confusing and underdeveloped. I grasped that David (Gulliver McGrath) is 'mad' but I am not certain I know why, Victoria (Bella Heathcote) sees ghosts but again, I'm not sure I understand why. And just what is Roger Collins (Jonny Lee Miller) problem? The film seems to assume that you understand the family dynamics and makes no real effort to explain them. If you've seen the 70's T.V show that this film is based on then you may understand but I am assuming that most people haven't and this is where the film leaves you hanging. Without the added dimension of the other storylines this film is essentially a 'cat and mouse chase' between Eva Green's character and Johnny Depp's.
Even the stellar cast couldn't resurrect this film with the stand out performances going to the lesser know actors such as Bella Heathcote (Victoria) and Gulliver McGrath (David). I found Chloe Grace Moretz performance as Carolyn particularly irritating and Michelle Pfeiffer's performance as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard was very bland and could have been played by anyone. It seems that Burton was keen to develop the Dark Shadows television series into something more but he was reluctant to let go of the 70's. I am not sure if this film was designed to be a homage or a parody of the stiff, obvious acting of the 70's. The acting felt very obvious and over the top. I think this was intentional as we all know that Michelle Pfeiffer, Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter can put in believable, realistic performances but if this film was your first encounter with them you might think that they couldn't. There were some funny moments, this is after all billed as a comedy but they are more of a quiet titter than a laugh out loud. The mix of 200 year old vampire meeting modern day culture generated most of the laughs, even if they were few and far between. I am not sure if anyone found the 'sex scene' between Depp and Green comedic. I found it confusing, weird and wildly unnecessary.
Overall, this film was a bit bland, it was a digestive biscuit rather than the luxurious rich chocolate cake that I have come to expect from Tim Burton and Co. I think resurrecting the Dark Shadows venture was a dream of Burtons and I think this film was a self indulgent 'blip' in the Burton/Carter/Depp enterprise and I hope that their next collaboration will see them back on form. It wasn't a truly horrendous film and it if it didn't have such a high ranking cast and top notch director I would have expected less so may have judged it on a different scale but it didn't so I haven't. The overall consensus being that I expected more. More storyline, better acting and a film in it's own right rather than a 'spin off' from a long dead television show.
With the news that this is Johnny Depp and Tim Burton's eighth film collaboration, one can't help but wonder if Burton lives in a bubble where only Depp and Helena Bonham Carter exist, with occasional peek-in's from other artists. The Depp/Burton/Carter team is fast running out of steam, whilst potential fans of their colourful, but increasingly vacuous material might be fast running out of patience.
Dark Shadows is based on a tv series of the same name from the 1960's. Opening 200 years earlier, we meet Barnabus Collins, who is transformed into a vampire by a jealous witch and buried un-dead. Fast forward to 1972, and we catch up with the Collins family who is headed up with stuffy matriarch Elizabeth, who rules over her feckless brother Roger, their small brood of kids, a drunken psychiatrist and a loopy caretaker. When Barnabus is dug up by some hapless workers, he returns to his former home to rule the family and save the ruins of his home from the clutches of the evil witch who was responsible for his 200 year incarceration.
The problem with this film is the same problem with all of Burton's films. He seems to have a couple of central idea's and seems to revert back to them with almost every film. There's no doubt that he is accomplished as a director and that he works well with his dynamic duo, but must we have Depp in every film. It's getting to a point where we can almost predict Depp's every tic and movement. Soon, we'll be able to mimic his reactions before he even does them himself. Depp should get back out there and focus on being an actor that appeals to the masses rather than a weird dummy for his ventriloquist director.
Meanwhile, other actors, including Carter, are underused and thrown to the side to allow Depp full use of his stage. Michelle Pfeiffer, who I admire greatly, shows potential early on in the film, but is soon forced left-stage. For the grand old age of 54, she's looking good though, and we dont see enough of her on the big screen these days. Jackie Earl Haley is also a hoot to watch, although he looks more dead than Depp does. Everywhere else, the characters and actors appear to be having more fun than the viewer.
There's nothing essentially wrong with the story itself. It's clear and concise enough, it just seems very run of the mill. Burton does a great job with the asthetics, and he certainly seems to have a great relationship with the actors he works with, but it would be just nice to see him change gear or find a film that didn't seem like some weird social commentary with a white face and leather trouser fetish. Putting the fact that this is a barrel of recycled idea's with recycled actors, the film is entertaining and loyal enough to its source material, so if you're not too bothered by the fact that we've seen it all before, then you might get a kick out of some of the humour and off-the-wall characters.
I love funny films that make you laugh and keep you entertain, but lately comedy has turned into road trip or slapstick style humour where you find yourself cringing rather than falling off your seat from the humour. There seems to be very few intelligent funny films anymore, instead we're usually presented with 90 minutes of lowest denominator toilet humour. When I heard of Dark Shadows my first response was oh no, not another vampire movie but Tim Burton and his impressive cast list enticed me. I'm glad it did as this film is both funny and clever with superb acting, one of the most entertaining films I've seen for a while.
Please note, this review is of the film only.
The film begins its journey in 1752. The Collins couple, with their young son Barnabas, travel from England to create a new live (and a town named after themselves) in America to lead a life of affluence. As Barnabas matures, his actions prompt heartache and revenge which brings with it a curse upon of his family and series of events that result in him 'sleeping' for a couple of decades. When he awakes, Barnabas (Johnny Depp) not only has to learn to deal with the modern living concept of 1972 but also a ruined estate and a dysfunctional bunch of family members and staff including a few ghosts from his past. There are quite a few twists and turns as the film progresses but it's not a standard action film but instead takes on the feeling of a soap opera, in keeping with it's predecessor.
The film is based upon a type of dark gothic soap opera of the same name that ran in the 1960's. It ran from June 1966 to April 1971 on the ABC network in the US. I have to admit that I'd never heard of it but apparently it was very popular (Michelle Pheiffer asked for a part in the film as she was a fan of the original TV series). There are moments in the film where you think "Ah, this must be an in-joke" to the original series, but having never watched it I can't say this ruined my enjoyment of the film even though I didn't get the joke. If you have watched and enjoyed the original series then these moments are likely to enhance your enjoyment of the film but do not take anything away from those who are coming to Dark Shadow's afresh. According to IMDB, Jonathan Frid, Lara Parker, David Selby and Kathryn Leigh Scott from the original series make cameos in the film, during the Ball scene.
From past history, films with a combination of Tim Burton as director and starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter (Married to Tim Burton) have always been an enjoyment to watch. Alice in Wonderland, Sweeny Todd, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Although still not as good as the original) and Corpse Bride (As well as Edward Scissorshands, Sleepy Hollows and Planet of the Apes which each star one of the two) all have that have Tim Burtonesque type feel which Dark Shadows also entails. His films always seem to connote good quality acting with a strong cast and Dark shadows is no exception.
Barnabas Collins - Johnny Depp (Pirates of the Caribbean, Edward Scissorhands and lots lot more)
Elizabeth Collins Stoddard - Michelle Pfeiffer (Batman Returns, Grease 2, What Lies Beneath)
Dr. Julia Hoffman - Helena Bonham Carter (Alice in Wonderland, Sweeney Todd, The King's Speech, Planets of the Apes)
Angelique Bouchard - Eva Green (Casino Royale, Camelot TV Series)
Willie Loomis - Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Shutter Island)
Roger Collins - Jonny Lee Miller (Trainspotting, Hackers)
Victoria Winters/Josette du Pres - Bella Heathcote (In Time, Beneath Hill 60)
Carolyn Stoddard - Chloë Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass, Hugo, 500 Days of Summer)
David Collins - Gulliver McGrath (Hugo)
Silas Clarney - Christopher Lee (Lord of the Rings, Star Wars)
Alice Cooper as himself
The costumes and sets (built at Pinewood studios) are also noteworthy, combining a gothic feel such as Monsters of the Adams family with a 70's style New England small town that feels like it is from a Steven King novel. I also love some of the 70's outfits worn by Carolyn Stoddard and the shirts that Dr Hoffman wears (can we have 70's inspired clothing back in stores soon please).
Although not one who generally notices soundtracks, I did enjoy the music in the film from the likes of Iggy Pop, Alice Cooper (who makes an appearance) and The Carpenters.
Although not really sure what I was coming into (I've learnt a good lesson in life is to never watch movie trailers otherwise there's no point watching the film) I loved this film. On reflecting on other Tim Burton films however I've realised that I've enjoyed them too and therefore maybe Tim Burton films are like Marmite, you either love the stuff or absolutely hate it with a fiery passion (I can't even stand the smell). I really enjoy the gothic film to this film, the intelligence behind the humour, the framing that gives homage to those classic black and white vampire films and staging. I think the acting level is very good, specifically from the younger members of the cast. Yes, the actors are playing similar roles to previous but I don't think abolut that when I'm watching, I get lost in the story which to me suggests that they are playing them well. If I had a choice between watching 90 minutes of comedy that includes some kind of car chase and a case of the runs or dark shadows, I'd choose Dark Shadows every time.
Runtime: 113 Minutes
This review is published under my user name on both Ciao and Dooyoo.
* Film Only Review*
We begin our story in the year 1752, upon the dock at Liverpool in Great Britain. Mr and Mrs Collins with their young son Barnabas wait for the ship to take them across the mighty ocean to the land of hope and dreams, America. Collinsport, Maine is the town the family settles in. Twenty years after his arrival in this bright colourful coastal town, Barnabas (Johnny Depp) finds that not only he is very rich and powerful he can also have any woman he desires. Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green) is a very attractive young woman but she is also able to cast spells unknown to Barnabas. When she finds out that he is in love with another woman, her heart is shattered and she is determined to have her revenge. The mysterious Angelique casts a spell on Barnabas, turns him into a vampire and buries him in a coffin alive.
Moving on two hundred and twenty years, we are now in 1972. Barnabas Collins has been set free from his coffin to regain his position as head of his ancestral home. Barnabas is pleased to see Collinwood Manor even if it is rather jaded. Meeting his family members is interesting if worrying as they seem a dysfunctional band of renegades, all with hidden secrets. It doesn't take him long to realise that they are desperately broke.
Do you remember a long time ago Tim Burton made a movie about a shy, talented young man with spiky hair and scissors for hands? Edward Scissorhands was a great movie, Dark Shadows is not.
In lots of ways it is unmemorable. I saw the film at the cinema when it was released, I certainly didn't walk out shouting, 'Wow what a great film!' In fact, I've had to watch clips today on various sites to remind myself of the plot and what went on.
Let's start with the story line. As far as I am aware the film is loosely based on an American 30 minute TV gothic horror show. I can't vouch for the realisation of the film and how loosely it is based on the series as I haven't seen the series. In theory the plot reads okay and from the trailers I first saw I thought the film had potential. I remember thinking that the one-liners were very funny. Here's the thing; the best scenes of the film and the jokes are all in the trailer.
Some scenes are sumptuous and lavishly executed but there was part of me that had seen very similar scenes in all the other Tim Burton films. When making this film Burton has taken one very large pot and thrown good and bad scenes from Beetlejuice, Scissorhands, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland in, given it a stir, closed his eyes and hoped that the finished result would be a film people would get excited about and enjoy. He failed.
The film lacks focus. Burton seems to have turned into the chap from Monty Python, Terry Gilliam; someone who thinks that by superimposing so many goofy images and adding a fading rock star like Alice Cooper that everything will be okay and the film will work. It's just a mess, very self-indulgent and at times boring. It's like Johnny and Tim get together, plan a little party and think, which star should we invite to join in the film this time. Don't get me wrong, I love Alice Cooper but I didn't think the scene with him worked. Also, at times I didn't know whether I was watching a romance, horror film or a comedy. I am also so bored of seeing the same old faces in a Burton film like Christopher Lee and Helen Bonham Carter.
Things I did like: The soundtrack is good with songs by Iggy Pop, Donovan, Curtis Mayfield; great to hear Paranoid by Black Sabbath and Highway Star by Deep Purple even if it was the Roger Glover re-mix. I could have lived without 'Nights in White Satin,' always did think that song dragged on. Of course the song performed by Alice Cooper, 'No More Mr. Nice Guy,' is an excellent song as is 'Ballad of Dwight Fly.' Not forgetting, 'Bang a Gong (Get it On)' by T. Rex.
I liked the 70s gear and a lot of the funky lamps, rugs and ornamentation. I loved the costumes that Johnny Depp wore making him look even more barking than usual. (I'll come back to him in a minute). The scene where he was walking around Maine was beautifully filmed and very imaginative. Of course I believed the location was in Maine. It turns out that most of the film was filmed at Pinewood Studios except for an odd scene in Buckinghamshire, Scotland, Devon and Cornwall. Ah, I see now. It was Cornwall not Maine or was it Devon? The only shot taken outside Europe was in Ontario Canada and that was the one of the Trafalgar Castle School. I can't even remember the scene with that building in so you see - this is not a memorable film!
Let's talk about the cast, should we? Who should I mention first? Okay, I'll go with Johnny Depp. I think you all know by now that we go back a long time. I feel like I have known the fella most of my adult life. When 'Alice in Wonderland' was released, my son said to me, 'Mum, I really don't like Depp and Burton working together; it's the same old boring stuff. Johnny is much better when he stars in a film that isn't directed by Burton.' I didn't agree with him at the time although I was disappointed with Alice in Wonderland. I do agree with him now. It's time to move on. Don't get me wrong, Depp is good in Dark Shadows. He could advertise a box of Cornflakes and I would be attracted to his quirky smile, beautiful speaking voice and sense of humour but it is all too familiar and very stale. I think we all love this mad eccentric stumbling around in wacky hats and clothes but wouldn't it be better if we could see him play a more challenging role?
Helen Bonham Carter; she's another one who always plays a loopy role. I thought her role as Dr Julia Hoffman, the live in psychiatrist who was hired to treat Elizabeth Collins's young nephew was the same old, piece of acting. I don't think she does act, she probably just plays herself. I thought her performance in this film was tiresome.
I used to like Michelle Pfeiffer when she was younger and thought she had a lot of ability as an actress but I thought her performance in Dark Shadows as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, the family matriarch was pedestrian, not inspiring in any way.
The younger members of the cast were much better. Gulliver McGrath was excellent as the spooky, disturbed kid and I also thought Bella Heathcote had great presence as Victoria Winters. Chloë Grace Moretz was superb as Carolyn Stoddard, the messed up teenager with an attitude who later turns out to be a werewolf. Some of the expressions on her face when Depp was rambling on in his clipped British accent were hilarious.
Weak performances came from Jackie Earle Healey and Johnny Lee Miller. Healey was boring and lacked charisma and Miller as Roger Collins was too over the top.
The film is rated PG 12A in UK. I'm not sure whether I agree with this rating. There are scenes in the film that are gory and I think a sensitive 13 year old will be easily disturbed by these scenes. I also think the sex scenes are rather too explicit for this age group. There is a bit of swearing but nothing too outrageous, generally anatomical words. Of course with the film being based in the 70s there are references to marijuana, pill popping, cigarettes and alcohol, nothing too drastic.
To sum up; this is not a diabolical film at all. It contains some creative imagery. The soundtrack is cool; Johnny Depp's persona in this film is very amusing as is his English accent. You can't help but laugh at him but he isn't acting really, he's just mucking about having fun. The film is 113 minutes long and seemed to drag. I've read several reviews and it seems they are on my wave length; this is not one of Tim Burton's best or Johnny Depp's. It really is time to change the record and move on to something else before they both become parodies of themselves.
*Film only review*
Vampire Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) is finally freed after years of imprisonment. Barnabus returns to his family home to find his somewhat dysfunctional family in need of his help.
Directed by Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands), written by Seth Grahame-Smith (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) and John August (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). Based on the 1960s TV series by Dan Curtis.
After seeing the trailer for Dark Shadows I wasn't that interested in seeing it but my girlfriend is a fan of Burton/Depp/Bonham Carter collaborations so I wasn't given much of a choice. I haven't seen the original TV series upon which this is based but I hope it's better than this movie.
The plot isn't great; it starts out ok-ish with the backstory behind how vampire Barnabas Collins came to be and then finding himself in the 1970s and meeting his oddball family. Then it gets worse with the plot surrounding Eva Green's witch Angelique taking business away from the Collins family, it's pedestrian with no real imagination, which is surprising given it's a film based around a vampire and a witch.
Throughout it felt like Burton didn't really know what direction to take the film in and so it turned out to be a muddled mess. Dark Shadows is a lesson how not to mix comedy and horror as it was neither funny nor scary. There are scenes full of gore and sex spread sporadically through the film that made me sit up and think 'what the hell is this movie?!?'
It seemed a bit adult in parts for a 12A, not enough to warrant a 15 rating perhaps but I wouldn't recommend it for small children at all. There are a lot of sexual references; I would not feel comfortable watching it with a child. If the writers wanted Dark Shadows to be focussed on the sexual side of vampire folklore then fine, do that, make the rest of the film fit that tone. It chopped and changed direction so many times, it's as camp as anything one minute then it turns sinister with a killing spree, then back to full on camp. I didn't know what was coming next, and not in a good way.
The cast is led by Johnny Depp (Pirates of the Caribbean) as Barnabas Collins. I know most people will consider this sacrilege but I'm really not a fan of Depp. He puts in his usual 'weirdo' performance that has become expected of him in recent years. I loved him in Edward Scissorhands as it seemed like a one off performance, but now it's like Depp plays every kooky role there is. He just irritates me a bit.
With Dark Shadows having quite a large ensemble, it's surprising how little time the characters are given to shine. Eva Green (Casino Royale) is given the most to do apart from Depp. The character of Angelique is totally out there making Green's performance quite memorable. She does an ok job; the problem though is the script. It's not witty enough to make any of the characters great or all that interesting. The writing just needed more oomph (technical terminology...).
Helena Bonham Carter (Sweeney Todd), Michelle Pfeiffer (Scarface), Jackie Earle Haley (Little Children) and Johnny Lee Miller (Trainspotting) are all underused. Developing the supporting characters could have only helped the film. Chloë Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass) and Gulliver McGrath (Hugo) are given a few minutes of the films focus before it swiftly moves back to Johnny Depp's Barnabas. Each supporting character is given their own beginning of a plot when Barnabas meets the family but they are later seemingly forgotten about, I expected at least some of the individual threads to carry on throughout the movie to make it more of a complex narrative. It seemed like a waste of a strong cast.
The problem with Tim Burton films is that I have really high expectations as he has made a lot of very good films...but he has also made a lot of really poor films so I am quite frequently disappointed. There are very few filmmakers who make great film after great film so I can forgive him the odd letdown as long as he follows it up with something good. Personally, I would recommend missing this one and waiting for Frankenweenie to come out later this year, looks much more promising.
Johnny Depp - Barnabas Collins
Michelle Pfeiffer - Elizabeth Collins Stoddard
Helena Bonham Carter - Dr. Julia Hoffman
Eva Green - Angelique Bouchard
Jackie Earle Haley - Willie Loomis
Jonny Lee Miller - Roger Collins
Bella Heathcote - Victoria Winters / Josette DuPres
Chloë Grace Moretz - Carolyn Stoddard
Gulliver McGrath - David Collins
Runtime: 113 mins
Also posted on ciao under the username shabbating.
For a vampire who was cursed and buried alive in the late 1760s, the year 1972 is understandably a strange and mysterious world. This is the challenge that Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) is faced with. Born to rich parents who own a large fishing business as well as their own Collinswood Manor, Collins in his youth makes the mistake of having a short fling with a dangerous and jealous witch Angelique (Eva Green). Failing to return her passionate love, he irks the talented sorceress and finds out there is nothing scarier than a woman who feels as though she has been wronged. First manipulating his true love to fall off a cliff, she transforms him into a vampire, forcing him to suffer the loss of his loved one forever. Turning the torch and pitchfork-wielding villagers against him, she succeeds in burying him alive.
His freedom comes nearly 200 years later when a group of construction workers accidentally break him free out of his coffin and incidentally all get sucked dry by the thirsty vampire Barnabas. After a few comical confrontations he shares with modern developments he is not at all familiar with, such as the big letter M signalling a McDonald's restaurant, and his careful mistrust of the newly laid-down concrete road, he makes his way back to Collinswood, only to discover his beloved mansion almost in ruins. The residents include his four descendants, Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer), her brother Roger (Jonny Lee Miller), Elizabeth's daughter Caroline (Chloe Grace Moretz) and Roger's son David (Gulliver McGrath), their butler Willie (Jackie Earle Haley), family psychiatrist Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter), a very old nanny of sorts (Ray Shirley) whose purpose throughout the film isn't entirely clear, and finally the new family governess Victoria (Bella Heathcote).
Despite her reserved feelings for inviting a vampire into her home, the family matriarch Elizabeth welcomes the return of her ancestor, and fills him in on what he's missed over the past two centuries. Basically, the fishing business Barnabas' parents worked so hard to build is no more, ever since Angelique the cursing witch took over almost everything, exacting vengeance on a family she despises. Always putting his bloodline first, Barnabas swears to restore their business to its former glory, and so begins the Collins family's extreme makeover backed by the 70s megahit, The Carpenters' 'Top of the World.'
So far, "Dark Shadows" looks and sounds like an offbeat comedy in which the goofy, stiff and pale Depp does and says the oddest things. There are priceless moments Depp takes full control of, as he learns what lava lamps are, that it is possible for women to become doctors, and 15-year-olds do not generally get married and become pregnant despite the fullness of their childbearing womb. He also insists The Carpenters are not singers but individuals dealing with woods. In the gothic setting of its run-down, grim mansion, impossibly white-powdered stars, and constant shots of the death-inviting cliff and the waves crashing into sharp rocks to remind us of a foreboding future, Burton finds time for humour, mostly centred around the shock Barnabas encounters as he starts experiencing a completely different world.
But there is a drastic shift in tone as Angelique enters the picture. The comedy is tragically cut short, and we enter an even weirder femme-fatale, "Fatal Attraction"-esque love-hate interaction between the vampire and the witch. The icy Depp and fiery Green make an interesting pair at first, but once it becomes clear that there is really nothing further to develop between the two characters, even the wild "sex" scene in which the two of them fly and crash around Angelique's office for some passionate hugging (that's all they do) to a classic Barry White song feels stale, and the scene seems to have been filmed only to show off in the trailer in an attempt to draw higher audience numbers.
Although Green looks the part of a hardcore, unforgiving wench with her dark, piercing eyes more strongly accentuated by her platinum blond hair, and her dark costumes, her powerful witch doesn't have much to do. She acts as the tough, scary CEO of her company, but she never makes the adequate villain, and it's a wonder why anyone needs to be afraid of her. Given the large cast full of familiar names, not nearly everyone is given proper attention to, and among the most wasted of the ensemble is Carter, a Burton regular who is barely seen, does hardly anything memorable, and is tossed aside to never be seen again. She's a therapist who drinks a lot, and a lot of what she says stems from the fact that she is recovering from a colossal hangover or that she's the one who is popping pills. Miller is also given virtually no time to shine, and he too, is gone in a rushed subplot. The two children remain insignificant throughout, whether it's the rebellious, teenage Caroline or the young and innocent David.
Making something out of her supporting role is Pfeiffer who, as the strong, intelligent head of household, adds a touch of class and glamour to the cast, and as the only character who has any substantial relationship with Barnabas Collins, Pfeiffer strongly holds her own, and she also doesn't look too shabby confidently protecting her home and family from invaders with a shotgun.
Burton tries to manage a lot of genres here, but whilst doing so, he cannot quite grasp a single one correctly. Is this a comedy? A gothic horror? A throwback to the 70s? How about throwing in some supernatural fantasy? He dabbles with what appears to be far more than he can actually handle, which can also be said for the impressive but underused cast he has assembled here. Whilst "Dark Shadows" remains faithful to Burton's well-known and praised visual flair (it's no surprise this had the production budget of 150 million dollars), the content never stays strong throughout, and the overblown ending with its sudden necessity to produce some kind of a happy ending is a bit of a letdown. Still, Depp is as impressive and unique as ever, proving there is no contemporary actor who can come close to skillfully tackling the roles he does on a regular basis.
About the film
Dark Shadows is a gothic horror/ comedy film that is based on the soap opera of the same name which was aired between 1966 and 1971. The film was released on 11th May, with a run time of 113 minutes. Dark Shadows is rated 12A due to some bad language, sexual content and comic horror violence.
In the year 1752, young Barnabas Collins sets sail for America with his parents Joshua and Naomi. After twenty years, Barnabas is rich, successful and is the master of Collinwood Manor. Life couldn't be better for Barnabas... until he breaks the heart of Angelique Bouchard. Being a witch, Angelique dooms him to a fate worse than death; turning him into a vampire and then burying him alive. Another 200 years pass and Barnabas is freed from his tomb, only to awake in 1972, a world far away from the one he once knew. Returning to his former home, Barnabas realises that what was once his has now turned to ruin, along with the family that now occupy Collinwood Manor.
Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins
Eva Green as Angelique Bouchard
Michelle Pfeiffer as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard
Jonny Lee Miller as Roger Collins
Chloë Moretz as Carolyn Stoddard
Gulliver McGrath as David Collins
Helena Bonham Carter as Dr. Julia Hoffman
Jackie Earle Haley as Willie Loomis
Bella Heathcote as Victoria Winters
Ray Shirley as Mrs. Johnson
Ivan Kaye as Joshua Collins
Susanna Cappellaro as Naomi Collins
Christopher Lee as Silas Clarney
Alice Cooper as himself
What I thought
My boyfriend is a massive Tim Burton and Johnny Depp fan so last Saturday we went to the cinema to see Dark Shadows... not that I really wanted to see it. As I was staying with him, I had to pay to see this as this is no Cineworld there.
Casting wise, this film has some great names. I am one of the few people I can think of who really doesn't like Johnny Depp. I have only ever liked in him Pirates of the Caribbean so seeing a film that starred him was not my idea of fun. One of the reasons I dislike him so much is because he tends to overact everything. Dark Shadows is no exception. Where his character of Barnabas Collins should have been funny and charming at the same time, he was just annoying. None of his lines that were supposed to be funny turned out that way because they seemed extremely forced and unbelievable. Dark Shadows was not the film to change my opinion of Depp.
Helena Bonham Carter, however, is an actress that I have loved in everything of hers I have seen. Dark Shadows ruined that perfect streak. Unfortunately, the character of Dr. Julia Hoffman was serious underused and underdeveloped. This character could have been really interesting and instead appears to only be there to break up the storyline of the main family members. Now, I can't really fault Bonham Carter in her performance due to the character she played but I wish she had been cast as someone else and been used to her full potential.
Overall for casting, everyone is underused. There are quite a few characters in the Collins family and none of them apart from Barnabas gets enough screen time. Michelle Pfeiffer plays the head of the new family and while she gets more screen time next to Depp in comparison to others, she doesn't shine at all. I hate to say it but I pretty much hated everyone in this film and that was mostly not their fault. The script is extremely lacking in humour, which it should have been full of. It is also lacking in drama and excitement which doesn't make acting the parts easy for the cast.
As for the story, well... I hated that even more. Although the beginning of the film showed promise, explaining the Collins family history, it doesn't carry on after this. The beginning, set in the mid-1700s is by far the most interesting part of the film as you really get a background into the main character's lives. Once it gets to the 1970s though, everything starts to go downhill. The same as the script, the plot lacks excitement and drama. Nothing actually ever really seems to happen in the story and there isn't a proper ending either. Yes, there are altercations between Barnabas and Angelique but they don't go anywhere nor do they resolve anything either. There are loads of questions left unanswered and I didn't even care about them.
This is a film that has been advertised well before the release date, creating a lot of hype around it. Any Depp/ Burton film generally does really well but with this one, I think people will be disappointed. Both my boyfriend and I wanted to walk out half way through but refused to seeing as we paid for our tickets. I'm glad it wasn't just us that hated it though as my best friend did as well. I think that a lot of Depp and Burton fans will be extremely disappointed with Dark Shadows as it just doesn't meet expectations.
Dark Shadows is (apparently) based on an old 1960s TV show that ran for 150 or so episodes. Taking the same basic plot as the TV series, it sees Barnabas Collins - a wealthy Maine 18th Century businessman cursed by a witch when he spurns her advances in favour of another woman. To wreak her revenge, the witch makes Collins' lover commit suicide whilst turning Collins himself into a vampire and burying him for 200 years. When he is finally accidentally unearthed, he comes seeking revenge against the witch who is still ruining the lives of his direct descendants.
One of Dark Shadows' main issues is that it appears to have a bit of an identity crisis. Is it a children's film? Well, sort of; except a few fairly graphical sexual references will have parents squirming in their seats and may provoke some awkward questions from little Johnny. Is it a fish-out-of-water comedy? Well, sort of; except that for large parts of the film it forgets to be funny and doesn't do enough with the culture clash idea. Is it a loving homage to a TV show? Well, sort of; except that the TV show in question is so obscure that hardly anyone will ever have heard of it. Is it a morality tale about the importance of family and loyalty? Well sort of; except the skewed morality (it's all right to drain the blood of people, but not OK to be disloyal) may again cause poor little Johnny to have some psychological issues.
Essentially Dark Shadows tries to be all things to all people. It tries to be a dark-horror-family-comedy-drama. Inevitably, by trying to please everyone, it ends up not really pleasing anyone. You can also see Director Tim Burton running around like a little puppy dog greeting everyone in an excitable way and desperately wanting them to love what he's doing. Unfortunately, he just ends up getting into trouble for weeing on the floor (in a metaphorical sense of course).
The film is undoubtedly strongest at the start. The opening 30-45 minutes contain most of the laughs (although even here, they are quite thinly spread). After that point it seriously loses its way and is too drawn out. Even with a relatively svelte (for modern films at least) 113 minute run time, there's not enough to sustain it. It feels like a 30 minute TV show idea stretched out to almost two hour (which, of course, is exactly what it is). What worked as a short, punchy TV episode just doesn't work as a full-length feature film. As it lumbers along towards its inevitable (and crushingly predictable) conclusion, you will find yourself glancing at your watch more and more frequently.
Possibly the worst thing about Dark Shadows is that it could have worked. Burton clearly wants to revisit some of his earlier films (you know, from the time when a Tim Burton film was actually worth watching). The dark gothic elements and the emphasis on family values recall Edward Scissorhands (Barnabas is essentially Edward with a haircut), Beetlejuice and even The Corpse Bride. Or, if he wanted to look to earlier adaptations of cult TV shows, he could have taken inspiration from The Addams Family film. If only Dark Shadows had a smidgeon of the inventiveness and off-beat, macabre humour of those, it could have been good.
The film's one real saving grace is the cast, and it's no real surprise that the ever-reliable Johnny Depp leads the way as Barnabas Collins. Not that it's much of a stretch for him. He's played this role (kooky outsider) so many times for Burton that he could do this in his sleep, and it's credit to him that he resists the urge to phone in a performance. He might not serve up anything new, but he's clearly relishing revisiting this sort of role. His eccentric, old-fashioned dialogue is probably one of the film's best aspects and he once again shows an expert sense of comic timing, delivering lines in a way which somehow makes even the most sterile of jokes at least mildly amusing (his musings on Alice Cooper and what sort of a singer *she* must be are far funnier than they have any right to be).
Yet Depp is given a good run for his money by other members of the cast. Michelle Pfeiffer is having a whale of a time vamping it up as direct descendant Elizabeth Collins, whilst Eva Green is good as sultry, sexy witch Angelique Bouchard. The interplay and bitchy dialogue between Green and Pfeiffer is particularly good, and it's a shame that more wasn't made of this.
Helena Bonham Carter (inevitably) turns up as a psychologist and plays the part of drunken lush to perfection, whilst Jackie Earle Haley is creepy, funny and endearing as Barnabas' servant, Willie. If Jonny Lee Miller, Bella Heathcote and Chloe Moretz make less impact, this is more the fault of the script which side-lines them as slightly dull bit-part players.
Where Dark Shadows works best is through the constant misunderstandings between the various characters: in Barnabas' attempts to fathom 1970s technology (shouting "reveal yourself tiny songstress" to a TV image of Karen Carpenter), in the bickering between the family or in the sly digs at the Brown Decade. Unfortunately, these are too few and far between (and most of the best bits were highlighted in the trailer) and by the mid-point, the film settles down into a run of the mill showdown between good and bad.
It seems that Depp just can't say "no" to Burton and you should be grateful for that because without his presence Dark Shadows would have been immeasurably worse. As things stand, it's just about bearable. Two stars, then for the cast who try their best to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.
Director: Tim Burton
Running time: approx. 113 minutes
(c) Copyright SWSt 2012
It's hard to figure out whether Tim Burton has simply burned out as a filmmaker, got stuck in a comfortable rut he can't get out from, or if he simply is running out of fresh ideas, but it seems all of the above are somehow perfectly encapsulated in his first 2012 film offering, Dark Shadows. Based on the cult classic 1966-71 supernatural soap opera (which I am also a huge fan of), this project has been on the books for several years now and speculation whether it would ever materialise has come and gone just as often. But now, after all those years of wrangling with the desire to produce a modern adaptation of the venerable Dan Curtis series, it has now finally taken shape... with generally mixed results. Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) scorns his lowly servant mistress cum witch Angelique (Eva Green) in the late 18th century, the latter who then rapidly kills off his parents, his fiancée, and finally curses him to the life of a bloodsucking vampire, has him chained up in a coffin, and then sentences him to be buried under ground for the next 200 years. But as a bunch of construction workers stumble onto his coffin and set him free in the year 1972, he returns to find his old home run down and the family business in tatters, not to mention the Collins family a far cry from the one he knew in his past. Thus he makes a resolution to get the family back to its former glory, while also having to battle the conniving Angelique's witchery, his rising feelings for the reincarnation of his former fiancée, and the confusing new world of the 1970s. Now first things first, I will admit that this film wasn't as bad as I feared it might be, particularly based on the horrific trailer put out that promised the movie to be nothing more than an overly camped up sitcom with corny, dated and crass jokes. And in some ways that is what the film also is, but it does try to balance this material with some gothic touches more in keeping with Dark Shadows' original melodramatic roots derived from the likes of H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe amongst others. Unfortunately, this balancing act is not so wholly successful much due to Burton never managing to find a proper balance between the two, leading the film's moods to awkwardly shift from one scene to another (and at times even within the same scene) with the delicacy of an ox in a china boutique.
This duality is probably the one, major thing that mostly weighs the film down as the movie never seems to really figure out which one it wants to be, and how the lighter comedy stuff really is supposed to work together with its dramatic counterparts. This is particularly well evident in the characters of the film that border on the side of caricature and joke that the majority's ham fisted deliveries pump to whole other spheres. Johnny Depp particularly suffers from this as his portrayal of Barnabas is so over-the-top - right down to the ridiculous make-up he's been plastered with - that I had to wonder what the heck Burton, Depp and screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith were aiming at. In the original series Barnabas was an intelligent man who actively held his vampirism a secret and certainly adapted himself into modern life with no problem, but in this movie the character has been intentionally reduced to the level of a moron just so that they can make as many fish-out-of-water jokes as money can buy. It's frankly embarrassing to see Barnabas not make the slightest semblance of even trying to understand that it isn't the 1700s anymore, and amid his gawking and postulating toward McDonalds signs, lava lamps and singers on TV, doesn't seem to hold the slightest common sense that maybe it's not the best thing to advertise you're a vampire around as that got you chained up in the first place! And when Depp tries to assert some kind of a tortured, reluctant vampire routine into the part, it just comes off as rather unconvincing. The rest of the characters - of which there are far too many for one film to comfortably contain - are little more than stand-ins with no real depth to them past what you see on the outside. Nor do any really bare all that much likeness to the original series characters either, so they tend to not leave their caricature reflections behind to grow into becoming actual characters in their own right (Helena Bonham-Carter as Dr. Julia Hoffman is particularly abrasive with her mimicry of Grayson Hall's red head with a ridiculous wig and adding overt postulating of how drunk people behave on That '70s Show).
Truly, it is the large cast of characters that is another big problem in this film as the lack of time for development of them all, in a movie under two hours in length, does no favours for any of them. We have the stately head-of-the-family (played with some semblance of serious gravitas by Michelle Pfeiffer in a fairly gratuitous role), the drunk caretaker, the philandering brother, the rebellious daughter, and the creepy little kid, all playing into the stereotypes that make for a formulaic dysfunctional family, in which the drunk doctor and the new, bland-as-all-milky-vanilla governess are further inserted in, to then be presided over by the ridiculously hammy Depp that is a far cry from any form of subtlety. Not only that, but the main villain of the witch-turned-corporate-bigwig Angelique is so over-the-top that it's hard to ever take her seriously for one moment as she rages and runs and gesticulates and flirts around like there's no tomorrow (Lara Parker or Lysette Anthony she certainly is not). Neither is her verbal sparring with Barnabas all what it's cracked up to be when the writing for their interactions reads like an American Pie movie! And as a direct by product of all of the above, the subplot about Barnabas re-discovering his long-lost love in the form of Bella Heathcote's Victoria (with the separate characters of Maggie Evans and Victoria "Vicky" Winters perhaps thankfully being melded together to spare one character less to focus on here) suffers because no amount of time is really given to their interaction. They get a grand total of three major scenes together, with copious amounts of "birthing hips" discussions to show how much Barnabas cares for her, and to compensate this lack of together time Vicky even gets a sad childhood history flashback tagged on to emphasise a connection. But all of this doesn't reduce the fact that she is such a non-entity in the movie that she can simply take off and disappear for lengths of the film until we're again reminded that she actually indeed is still somewhat important to the story.
Stylistically the film is normal Burton. It's gloomy, somewhat subversive, heavy on make-up, and steeped with a gothic atmosphere straight out of Batman Returns and Sleepy Hollow. At times this works splendidly, while at others the film looks cheaper than what its budget would suggest it should. It is commendable that Burton at least tries at times to do homage to some of the original series visual styles and character appearances, but more often than not he tends to go way overboard with this as well. I did notice Depp occasionally trying to sound like Jonathan Frid in his mannerisms, such as drawing out and slurring his S's from time to time, while Helena Bonham-Carter tries to do the same with Grayson Hall's very halting way of speech, but this tends to be very inconsistent and only noticeable in a few scenes here and there. To further draw out the feeling of the 1970s, we of course get some token hippies taking drugs by the campfire talking of peace and love, the Collins daughter Carolyn's room is plastered with every conceivable poster of a 1970s band, and there's a further smattering of period songs heard prominently throughout the movie, from The Moody Blues and The Carpenters, to Donovan and Curtis Mayfield. We even have a ball scene (with very small cameos by some surviving members of the original series) where Alice Cooper is brought into perform, complete with yet another poor attempt at humour ("That is undoubtedly the ugliest woman I have ever seen"). And when we reach the final act and the ensuing battle of the Collins family with the evil Angelique, the whole film completely looses control in throwing one plot twist after another into the pot with so little foreshadowing for it all to make little actual sense (Carolyn's little secret, for instance, is flung out there seemingly for the heck of it to make a reference to Dark Shadows' nature of having a large monster gallery from which to draw storylines from). Add in a pinch of Beetlejuice and a final twist ending that seems to scream for "sequel bait that will never happen," and you have a film that, while not outright terrible, is just really quite forgettable.
This is a weird movie on a conceptual level. For one, it's not really made for the fans (and Burton's even said as much) since so much of what made the original series so beloved and revered to even this day was much because, in spite it's slight levels of camp and silly mistakes, the series still took itself seriously. The actors had to perform their parts every weekday pretty much live and the storylines were often intriguing, managing to ratchet some seriously wonderful dramatic scenes over the course of its slow-burning story developments (Josette's suicide in the 1795 story arc to prevent herself ever becoming a vampire like Barnabas, for instance, was beautifully handled over the movie's possession angle). But I wonder how much non-fans of the show will get out of this film, either, since it seems to bank on you knowing just as much about the characters beforehand for there to not be an inherent reason to explain them particularly in depth for new audiences (even if indeed many don't much bare resemblance to the original cast performances). And when you add in Johnny Depp's ham-fisted acting as Barnabas, coming across more like a stand-up comedian ramping up the more obvious mannerisms of Jonathan Frid's much more low-key approach for added comedy value, the whole movie really feels like a slap in the face of the title's legacy to emphasise how campy the entirety of the 1960 and '70s were. Still, with all that said, the film does at times manage to be at least fairly entertaining and some of the stylistic decisions do work fairly well for harking back to the old-style melodrama in which the 1960s series existed in (though much of the CGI is far too obvious), but it's just that, with the massive cast, the often terrible over-acting, and a movie that doesn't know whether it wants to be a serious horror film or a comedy, drags the whole endeavour down as a messy, forgettable, Burton-on-autopilot missed opportunity. Fang you, but no fang you.
© berlioz 2012
Dark Shadows. FILM ONLY Review.
Dark Shadows is a film I have been looking forward to seeing and following the constant hints to my partner we finally took a trip to the cinema last weekend to fulfil my wishes... in other words... to shut me up! I will try not to give away any details but forgive me if I do as it is hard to give you an idea of this film without giving away a couple of little bits.
Directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins Dark Shadows begins with an introduction to a young Barnabas the Collins' family in the 1760's. In search of a better future the Collins' family move from Liverpool to the US to set up home in the form of the huge Collins Manor and their own fishing business. They soon become the most well known and well respected families and soon progress with turning the small fishing village they had first arrived at into a lively and thriving fishing town, now known as Collinsport. As Barnabas matures he has a brief romance with a local towns girl, Angelique, played by Eva Green. Angelique is in love with Barnabas, however when this love is unrequited Angelique puts a curse upon the Collins' family and as a result of this Barnabas' parents are killed in an "accident" while out walking the family dog. When Barnabas meets his true love she is also "tragically" taken from him. From this it will come as no surprise that Angelique is a witch and wants Barnabas to suffer for an eternity. So, she transforms him into a vampire with eternal life. Angelique however doesn't stop here and after turning the whole town against Barnabas he is captured and buried alive in a coffin wrapped in chains.
Fast forward now to 1972 and a scene of a construction site. While carrying out some deep excavations the coffin is unearthed, Barnabas is once again free and this is where the main setting for the film really begins.
Wondering around town the film presents a few comical moments of Barnabas meeting the new wonders of the world, including the large "M" sign of Mc Donald's lit up in the dark of the night. Being buried for nearly 200 years and having to adjust to the modern world is possibly the real humour point of this film and I did find myself giggling away at these moments.
Eventually, Barnabas returns to his former home and meets his distant relatives. Almost 200 years since Barnabas' burial the Collins family are still living in Collinsport although times really have changed as they are now one of the most hated families in the town and all of their wealth is almost gone. The Collins family is much smaller and the manor is only inhabited by a few people including, Elizabeth Collins, the step mother, played by Michelle Pfeiffer, Carolyn, the daughter of Elizabeth and typical teenager, the young David Collins who's mother tragically died and he now believes talks to him from beyond the grave. Roger Collins is David's father, albeit useless and more interested in playing away than his sons own welfare, with this in mind you are also introduced to Dr. Hoffman, Davids' live in and slightly alcoholic doctor who was originally hired to help David cope with the death of his mother but now lives in the manor as almost a part of the family. Victoria Winters is the newest addition to the household, being hired as Davids governess we are given an introduction to Victoria and her arrival in Collinsport in amongst all of the humour of Barnabas discovering his new surroundings.
Amazingly, Victoria just happens to be the spitting image of Barnabas' true love, Josette, who was cruelly taken from him all those years ago. This is quite obviously the base for some more humour as Barnabas embarks on a mission to woo his love once more, but will this also end in tragedy? For what is the reason for the demise of the Collins' fortune?
Enter Angie! Angie is a young blonde woman with a nice sports car who now almost runs the town with her own fishing business, a family fishing business which has almost put the Collins out of business. Does the name sound familiar? Angie... Angelique. Also living an eternal life and still hell bent on destroying the Collins' family, this certainly is a woman scorned!
Following the return of Barnabas, Elizabeth Collins is initially reserved about the safety of Barnabas, yet she allows him to stay with almost no debating the matter. Barnabas then makes it his goal to restore the family's fishing business along with their reputation and wealth. As you can imagine with Angie, who will stop at nothing in her quest to destroy the Collins' name this provides for some rather entertaining, yet sometimes pointless scenes between the two.
I found this movie to be rather entertaining in the "silly humour" department and from the laughter in the cinema I think quite a few others did too. However for me, I felt as if the film started off with a good strong storyline which just got weaker towards the end and made for a rather a poor and quite possibly cheesy ending. I felt a few scenes were pointless, I can't say which as it will spoil the film, my concentration did lapse a couple of times but it was brought back really quickly with the silly humour.
The acting was good and I felt as though all of the parts were portrayed really well and as realistic as can be with the given subject of the film. My favourite character in Dark Shadows was Barnabas himself. I'm a bit of a hit and miss fan of Johnny Depp and sometimes cannot stand him, however in this film I found him entertaining without being too over the top. Despite my grumbles about this film not being as good as I had hoped I still found myself enjoying the film and I would watch it again.
I do recommend this film, however if you're not 100% sure it is your thing then maybe wait until it is on TV or available to rent rather than spend your hard earned pennies at the cinema!
Thanks for reading! :)
Barnabas Collins - Johnny Depp
Angelique - Eva Green
Elizabeth Collins - Michelle Pfeiffer
Roger Collins - Jonny Lee Miller
Carolyn - Chloe Mortez
David Collins - Gulliver McGrath
Dr. Hoffman - Helena Carter
Victoria and Josette - Bella Heathcote
This is a film only review.
I went to see Dark Shadows at the cinema last week in Kingston. I have to admit it is not a film I would have personally chosen to see, as I have never really been a big Tim Burton fan and the idea of a vampire film didn't particularly appeal to me. However, my friend wanted to see it and I went along with an open mind.
Without wanting to give too much of the story away, this film can basically be summed up as follows. (Note: don't read if you don't want any spoilers at all!)
Barnabus Collins was the son of a very priveledged family around 200 years ago. He had a fling with a servant and then rejected her, but unluckily for him she was a witch. She cursed him, causing him to lose his girlfriend and Barnabus to become a vampire. He then ends up buried in a coffin for the next 200 years, eventually being dug up and finding himself back in his hometown some time during the 1970s. He finds his ancestors still living in his old massive house which has slightly fallen into disrepair. The family are not thriving as much as they were during his "hay day" when they were running a successful fishing industry, as there is now a rival company in town. We find out that the rival is in fact the same witch who cursed Barnabus in the first place. She is still determined to run his family into the ground and when the two of them meet again, their rivalry continues. In fact the witch still claims to be in love with Barnabus and still tries to get together with him, trying to ruin his chances of love which he is hoping for with a girl he met in the 1970s. We also get to know the ancestors living in the house, including their two children, the nanny and a doctor who tries to cure Barnabus of being a vampire.
The cast features Johnny Depp as Barnabus and Helena Bonham Carter as Dr Hoffman. It also has Michelle Pfeiffer and Eva Green among others.
My first impression of this film was not too bad. The opening scenes look quite interesting and are set 200 years ago, setting up the back story and showing Barnabus and his family at their prime. The scenes on "Widow's Hill" are interesting, looking quite aesthetically pleasing and dramatic. I also liked when it skipped to the 1970s and showed Victoria, who wants to work at the Collins house as a nanny, on the train. This was much more realistic and simple, which I usually prefer in a film, so I thought this might mean the film would not all be so over the top. However, not much in the film is realistic!
Overall I didn't really like this film as I felt the story line was quite weak and not much happened. The relationships with characters were not very well developed and the person who I felt was potentially the most interesting, Victoria, was hardly explored at all. There is a vague relationship between her and Barnabus but I felt like it was very superficial and we didn't really get to know her at all other than from a couple of very simple flashbacks to her childhood, which could have been developed much more. I also felt the Collins children's characters were kept quite superficial, without much real insight. The doctor played by Helena Bonham Carter was also not very developed and was just a caricature of a character really. All we knew about her was basically that she likes a drink and wants to stay young.
I thought the ongoing rivalry and story between Barnabus and his old enemy and admirer, the witch Angelique, was quite annoying! There is one utterly cringeworthy "sex scene" where the two of them roll around the room with Angelique constantly tearing the walls etc with her nails. This same nail ripping effect went on for ages. Once would have been enough but they repeated it about five or six times, by which point I was really bored and just cringing at it! It was a really horrible, tacky cartoony sex scene which I thought added nothing.
The final battle at the end was not great either. By this point I was thoroughly bored of the film and getting sick of it, but I actually had to look away during parts of this fight, as it was just disgusting. At one point one character projectile vomits all over, and I just don't want to see that. The effects were impressive if you like that sort of thing, such as the witch Angelique being made of something like porcelain and constantly cracking, but I didn't enjoy it.
Over all, this is only for the most dedicated of Tim Burton fans or those who generally like over the top fantasy, vampire stories which good effects and are not bothered if the story line is weak.