Friday, May 18, 2012

WHAT LURKS IN THOSE DARK SHADOWS



     This review is a little late coming, but as some say, better late than never.  Back in the 60's there was a little TV show that went by the name Dark Shadows.  It revolved around the Collins family in a fictional town called Collinsport.  Now the character we all come to know and love, Barnabas Collins, played back then by the late great Jonathan Frid, didn't come in until Episode 211.  The show was close to being cancelled but the fans fell in love with Barnabas, the out of time Vampire, and it became a wildly successful gothic soap opera.

     Blast forward to present day.  The always fun to watch actor Johnny Depp went to his cohort in crime Tim Burton and said he wanted to play Barnabas Collins in a theatrical version of the beloved tv series.  Tim thought it was a great idea and decided to bring on Seth-Grahame-Smith on board to craft a screenplay for this reinvention of the cult classic.  This was a daunting task because of the amount of episodes the show ran for (1245), to tell a story in around 2 hours and bring to the screen the essence and the feel of not only the style of the show but the characters themselves.  Overall I think Seth did a good job bringing the world of Dark Shadows and the town of Collinsport Maine to life on the big screen.  I thought it felt a lot like the show in tone and actually used some dialogue directly from episodes, which was a nice tip of the hat to the fans.

    The story for the film version goes as follows.  Barnabas Collins is turned into a vampire and becomes imprisoned by a jealous witch in the 18th century.  Later in 1972, construction workers dig up his coffin and awaken Barnabas who then returns to Collinwood only to find the family business is in ruins and he needs to step up and get the family fortune and business back.  This, you could say is a fish out of water story, but instead of a dim witted character, you have an 18th century vampire trying to adapt to the 20th century.

    Tim Burton, I feel, is back in form with this movie.  This is where he really shines, directing dark, gothic style pictures with a hint of dark humour.  It was well paced and easy to follow, though a lot of people seem to say the movie was a mixed bag of terrible, I on the other hand thought it was a great, fun picture that was dark and moody, which was the tone of the often campy soap opera.  The movie definitely had the soap opera vibe to it, which is good because that's exactly what Dark Shadows was, a soap opera.  People who think Burton has lost his touch should be happy to hear that he's starting to find it again.

    A Burton picture would not be complete unless Helena Bonham Carter, Johnny Deep and Danny Elfman were part of it.  Carter plays the alcoholic psychiatrist Dr. Julia Hoffman, who becomes entranced by Barnabas and starts to lust after him, or  at least his blood, which she thinks if she transfuses herself with, will turn her into a vampire and an immortal.  Depp of course plays Barnabas, the head of the Collins family.  It's a role I feel he was meant to play.  Depp really brings heart and soul to the character and plays Barnabas to a T.  I couldn't think of anyone else that could play the character as well as Depp did.  Elfman is back of course to score the music for the movie.  If I didn't see his name in the opening credits I wouldn't have thought it was an Elfman score.  It is a good score and fits the film well, but I thought it didn't sound like your typical Elfman score which I think is a good thing.

    Michelle Pfeiffer is back on screen playing the role of Elizabeth Collins Stoddard.  Always a delight to watch on screen, Ms. Pfeiffer does not disappoint in this movie as the mother of the house.  She's trying to deal with raising a teenage daughter played wonderfully by Chloe Grace Moretz,  that doesn't seem to respect her or the family and also dealing with a nephew David (Gulliver McGrath) who can see ghosts and seems a bit off the rocker. McGrath and Moretz were last seen acting together in Hugo. Ms. Stoddard hired Dr. Julia Hoffman(Carter) to be the child's live in psychiatrist.  Near the end of the movie Pfeiffer has a great scene involving a shotgun, which seemed a little out of character but showed that a person can only take so much before they reach their boiling point.

   A beautiful seductress, Angelique, played fabulously by Eva Green is trying to put the Collins' out of business and take over the town for herself.  She is also out to get Barnabas who she wants all to herself.  She adds some sizzle to this dark gothic story.

   Unfortunately the marketing for this film is very misleading.  This is not an all out slap stick laugh a minute movie.  In fact it's not a comedy at all.  Yes there are points where there is some humour, but in all it's a gothic style soap opera, which is what the show was.  When I first saw the trailers I had no intention on seeing the film, and if I was going to go it was because I was a fan of the original show.  Well after the movie ended I was happy I went.  It was so much better than I was expecting and a definite delight to watch.  It wasn't the comedy farce the trailers make it out to be, I was so glad it wasn't.  I was hooked right from the opening scene.  I loved how they went into the back story of Barnabas and flesh his character out more.  It really added to it.

    I don't know why there is all the hate for the movie.  It's got a great cast, directed well, good score, hold your attention and above all and enjoyable film to watch.  If you have a couple of hours to kill and you are near a cinema I would suggest checking it out.

   I give this film 4 out of 5 stars.

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