‘Dark Shadows’ enjoyable but conflicted
Dark Shadows is very loosely based on the TV series from the late ’60s and stars Johnny Depp as the aristocratic son of an industrious family turned cursed vampire, Barnabas Collins. Barnabas and the entire Collins bloodline must share a curse placed on them by the spiteful witch, Angelique Bouchard (Green), who desperately yearns for the love of Barnabas. His affections are reserved for Josette DuPres (Heathcote) who also falls victim to the dark magic of Angelique. Angelique decrees that if she can not possess the love of Barnabas that no one shall have it. She then gains the aid of an angry mob of townsfolk who turn on Barnabas and imprison him for nearly 200 years until his return in 1972 when fate intervenes.
While trying to acclimate to the new era, Barnabas returns to his family home to find his descendants residing in his palatial mansion. They have all but given up hope as the family business has subsided. This leads to an unfortunate change of pace in the cape town that his parents founded in the mid 1700s. Barnabas holds the value of family above all else. He vows to bring the business back to the forefront and thus perpetuate an income that will bring them out of this tough time. Driven by the love of his family and (rightful) hatred for his competitor, there is soon a shift of power. This sets off his competitor to the point of turbulent vengeance.
By now we are all familiar with the somewhat overused, Tim Burton formula of “quirky love story + Johnny Depp = a movie.” I am no stranger to admiring the films of either Burton or Depp. Burton is one of my favorite directors and Depp is wonderful at his whacky character portrayals in such a way that only he can do. My DVD collection consists of many titles from both of these individuals (Seven of them include both). The formula still works, but just barely. Burton’s directing has always been revered as going against the grain, striving to be different and often edgy. He has created such a rut from his own styling that it almost seems like his guild of actors are more like a cabaret group that are just performing sketches. It has become very commonplace and not very “against the grain” at all anymore. There is a lack of shock and awe in “Dark Shadows,” but I can not think of anything I would change if I were presented with a comment box. Would it be any better if Ashton Kutcher donned a cloak and tried his hand at being the leading man in a Tim Burton movie? No, because you would always say to yourself, “Johnny Depp should have played him.” It is just what we have grown to love about them.
The acting in “Dark Shadows” was very diverse, but often conflicting. It was hard to decide an overall theme. You are presented with equal parts horror, comedy, tragedy, romance and even late-night adult themes. This works to an extent, but sometimes the viewer needs a little continuity. Elizabeth (Pfeiffer) was very dry and often despondent. Victoria (Heathcote) was very grounded despite the fact that she has traveled through many lifetimes to be with her one true love. Barnabas (Depp) well … you know. My favorite character was the Collin’s housekeeper, Willie (Haley). He was the inadvertent star to me. Willie is loyal to the Collin family and constantly drunk, so you can imagine how well-timed and witty his antics are. He definitely had some of the best lines in the movie.
In retrospect, “Dark Shadows” was an interesting movie. We have all seen it in one form or another, but who doesn’t enjoy watching Johnny Depp play an awkward character better than anyone else can? While I do think it is worth checking out if you are a fan of Tim Burton’s precursory titles, you might be better off paying matinee prices. It was as good as it could have been, but I recommend that you see the Avengers first if you are presented with the choice.