Dark Shadows

Dark Shadows featured image

Reviewed by Marc Glassman

Dark Shadows

Tim Burton, director

Seth Grahame-Smith, script, based on the TV series by Dan Curtis

Starring: Johnny Depp (Barnabas Collins), Michelle Pfeiffer (Elizabeth Collins Stoddard), Eva Green (Angelique Bouchard), Chloe Moretz (Carolyn Stoddard), Helena Bonham Carter (Dr. Julia Hoffman), Bella Heathcote (Victoria Winters/Josette du Pres), Jonny Lee Miller (Roger Collins), Gulliver McGrath (David Collins), Jackie Earle Haley (Willie); Alice Cooper, Jonathan Frid, Lara Parker, David Parker (party guests)


The buzz
The combination of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp accompanied by Helena Bonham-Carter has been combustible, artistically and financially, for over a decade. Look at their credits together: Sweeney Todd, Alice in Wonderland, Planet of the Apes, The Corpse Bride, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. All have attracted attention from audiences and the critics. Anticipation has been high for this project, an adaptation of the legendary gothic ‘60s TV soap opera Dark Shadows. Fans of the show have combined with the many admirers of Depp and Burton to bring the buzz to a fever pitch.


The genres:
Melodrama; vampire films; gothic romance; anarchic melancholia: fans of Depp, Burton and the original Dark Shadows.


The premise:
In the late 18th century, the Collins family leaves Liverpool for a small harbouring community in Maine. There, they prosper and eventually the town is named after them: Collinsport. All is fine until their son Barnabas ends his love affair with Angelique Bouchard to take up with the lovely Josette du Pres. Angelique is a witch and she exacts a terrible revenge on the Collins family—Barnabas is turned into a vampire; his parents are killed in an “accident” she causes; and Josette is compelled to commit suicide by plunging off a rock into the ocean. Turning the townspeople against Barnabas, Angelique gets a mob to capture him, lock him up and bury him alive in a coffin.

Nearly two hundred years later, in the early 1970s, Barnabas’ coffin is broken open by workers—who are killed and drained by the ravenous vampire. He returns to the Collins castle, where he finds the last remnant of his family struggling to hold on to their dwindling fortune, which is still in the fishery business.

Barnabas forms an alliance with Elizabeth, the matriarch, who is raising a strange 15-year-old girl, Carolyn. Also living in the castle are Elizabeth’s weak, womanizing brother Roger, his sad son, David, who constantly sees the ghost of his mother; Victoria Winters, David’s governess; the psychiatrist Dr. Hoffman and the caretaker Willie. Barnabas reveals the castle’s hidden treasures to Elizabeth and they set about rebuilding the family’s cannery and fishing fleet.

Opposing them is Angelique, either still alive or reborn. She controls the town and its fisheries and wants to reignite her love/hate relationship with Barnabas. Like two centuries earlier, Angelique desires Barnabas as her lover but he prefers Victoria, who bears an exact likeness to the long dead Josette.

The fight between Barnabas and Angelique intensifies—and leads to a gruesome, climactic conclusion.

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