Movie Review: “Dark Shadows”
Published: Monday, May 14, 2012
Updated: Monday, May 14, 2012 19:05
Run time: 113 minutes, Rating: PG-13
Imagine you’re a vampire and you just spent the last 196 years buried in a chained coffin that had been unearthed and opened. This very thing happens to Barnabus Collins (Johnny Depp) an English immigrant, from Liverpool, whose family founded the town of Collinsport, Maine, earning their income in the fishing industry. He was cursed by his former servant lover, Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green) who just happened to be a witch. The curse Angelique imposes on Barnabus turns him into a vampire so that his suffering would never end. Angelique is desperate to have Barnabus be with her at any cost. She even goes so far as to kill the love of his life before condemning him to a solitary pit via an angry town mob. Barnabus is released from the coffin in 1972 by a group of construction workers excavating for a project. Meanwhile, Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcote) is on her way to Collinsport to inquire about becoming the governess of a young boy, only to find that the family the boy lives with is a very dysfunctional and strange collection of relatives, whose social skills are decaying at the same rate as the house they reside in.
The movie is very theatrical. Think “Beetlejuice” meets “Royal Tennenbaums” meets “Edward Scissorhands,” but the gothic settings Burton usually employs are played down in order to offer a more realistic setting, apart from a couple of scenes. This contrasts nicely with the eccentric and dysfunctional characters that populate Barnabus’ family home, though it arguably goes without saying that you could insert Johnny Depp into any plot or premise and the plausibility would not be far out of reach. The story line is both comedic and serious at times, with a few moments where the acting gets somewhat carried away.
Barnabus reappears at his ancestral home after being freed to find apathetic children and other curious “future dwellers.” He meets the recently hired Victoria Winters and immediately becomes taken with her. Worried that he would be seen as a relic in her eyes, Barnabus undertakes to learn the ways of contemporary courting. Even though this wasn’t a love story per se, it was an amazing story of the woes of love, family, and Alice Cooper. “Dark Shadows” will keep you in the shadows until the final scenes, and maybe even after that. For those who don’t know, this film is adapted from a gothic soap opera television series that aired in the 1960s and 70s. The show, by the same name, had over 590 episodes, so if you don’t get your fill of eccentricities for the evening, be sure to check into it.
The movie is a mix of the predictable Burtonesque eccentricities and humor that doesn’t seem to register at times. Other critics have argued that it doesn’t have a real plot, but the plot is arguably that everything in Barnabus’ life comes full circle, tying back to the value of family, regardless of how eccentric and dysfunctional your family might be.