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Nothing to get your teeth into!
Dark Shadows (DVD)
Member Name: Praskipark
Dark Shadows (DVD)
Advantages: Good music, Johnny Depp, some creative imagery
Disadvantages: Same old format
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. ChloŽ 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.
Summary: Not one of Johnny's best