TALE OF THE DISCO-MBOBULATED VAMPIRE
Based on the soap opera from the late 60’s and early 70’s, Dark Shadows is about Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp), a 200-year-old vampire who is imprisoned in a coffin and unearthed in the 70’s. He makes his way back to his mansion and discovers that it is now inhabited by his descendants and that the Collins name and business is in ruins. His jealous, ex-girlfriend and witch, Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green), runs the rival company that has taken over the town.
I didn’t watch the old version of Dark Shadows but when I heard that Johnny Depp and Tim Burton were teaming up again, I was in. You didn’t have to ask me twice. Johnny Depp’s Barnabas Collins is a mix of Nosferatu’s appetite with Edward Scissorhand’s innocence and curiosity.
Barnabas’ descendants add to quirkiness of the movie and my favorite is Michelle Pfeiffer’s Elizabeth Collins Stoddard with her deadpan sense of humor.
It’s interesting that she and Barnabas partner up to revive the Collins name. Despite their stiff demeanor, they both care about the family and their well-being. However, there are other members of the family that are using them for their own selfish gains.
Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter) is the live-in psychiatrist hired to help with David (Gulliver McGrath) and Roger Collins (Jonny Lee Miller) is Elizabeth’s useless, womanizing brother. They both take advantage of the family constantly and contribute to tarnishing the name.
Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcote) arrives at the mansion as David’s governess. David takes an immediate liking to Victoria because they both seem to share the same sad past. The entire family seems to deal with Carolyn’s (Chloë Grace Moretz) teenage angst with flippancy. However, Victoria ignites Angelique’s jealousy because she bears a striking resemblance to Barnabas’ old love and he grows attracted to Victoria because of it.
Finally, the caretaker, Willie Loomis (Jackie Earle Haley) rounds out the peculiar gang. Besides Elizabeth and Barnabas, I don’t think these other characters add much to the main storyline. They filter in when you need them in the plot but you forget about them when they’re not there.
I like camp. I do. But this film lacks the humor and complexity of what it could have been considering the talent involved. The film has some difficulty figuring how to balance the gothic elements with the camp that so many jokes fall flat or ends up being cheesy. Considering it’s of the same genre, The Addams Family had the warm family message and the gothic humor. The charm of that movie worked more for me than this one.
The film was also categorized as a horror-thriller but other than the goth elements I fail to see what they were thinking. It’s in no way scary. I like when Tim Burton is at least involved in the story process of his films because I think he’s a master in the gothic fairy tale genre. This movie is definitely not a gothic fairy tale but there were moments where I felt that perhaps it wanted to be. It just couldn’t figure out what tone it wanted to stick with.
The cinematography is simply beautiful and I can see elements of old black and white films playing a role here. I think it was excellent of Burton to bring on French cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel, who is known for Amélie and A Very Long Engagement. If you haven’t seen those two movies, I beg of you to watch. They’re incredibly beautiful. Delbonnel incorporates that soft focus, lomo photography style which has a distinct 70’s look.
Perhaps it’s because I didn’t see or was a fan of the original Dark Shadows that makes this film a pass for me. Perhaps. I get that the series aired in the early 70’s. While it has the potential to be funny and the references do come across, there isn’t enough humor to make it have an impact with modern audiences. It’s got a great 70’s track that you can groove to but I mostly found myself smirking and not really laughing at the comedy. Perhaps we should send this movie back to the 70’s and see if it’s funnier.