PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):
In 1760, the Collins family migrates to America from Liverpool and sets up a fishing port in Maine, naming it Collinsport. Some years later, the son, Barnabas (Johnny Depp), seduces his family’s maid, Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green), who is a witch. When he tells her he doesn’t love or want her, Angelique kills Barnabas’ parents. Barnabas then falls in love with Josette du Pres (Bella Heathcote). In a fit of jealousy, Angelique bewitches Josette into leaping from a cliff to her death. Barnabas leaps after her in grief, but he survives because Angelique turns him into an immortal vampire. She rouses a mob to capture and bury Barnabas alive in a chained coffin in the woods and curses his family.
One hundred ninety-six years later, in the year 1972, construction workers accidentally free Barnabas from his coffin, who slakes his two-century hunger by feeding on and killing his rescuers. He makes his way back to his manor to find it inhabited by his dysfunctional descendants and their servants—the family matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer); her brother Roger (Jonny Lee Miller); her 15-year-old daughter Carolyn (Chloë Grace Moretz); Roger’s 10-year-old son David (Gulliver McGrath); Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter), David’s psychiatrist; Willie Loomis (Jackie Earle Haley), the manor’s caretaker; and Victoria Winters (Heathcote), David’s newly-hired governess and Josette’s reincarnation. Upon convincing Elizabeth of his identity by revealing a secret treasure room behind the fireplace, Barnabas is allowed to stay under the condition that he never reveal either the room or the fact that he is a vampire to the rest of the family. He must also pretend to be a distant relative from England who has come to restore the family’s business and reputation in town. He soon becomes very deeply attracted to Victoria, whom he briefly mistakes for his lost Josette, and immediately begins to pursue her.
As Barnabas helps revitalize the Collins’ fishery and manor, he is approached by Angelique, who has used her powers to establish a successful rival fishery called Angel Bay. She tries to win him back, later convincing him to make wild, passionate love with her, but he still rejects her, telling her that he loves Victoria instead. He restores his family’s name by inviting the entire town to a party at the manor featuring Alice Cooper, where Victoria reveals to Barnabas that her parents committed her to an insane asylum as a child because she could see and talk to Josette’s ghost. They kiss and confess their feelings to each other, unknowingly enraging Angelique who has witnessed the scene. Meanwhile, Dr. Hoffman has discovered Barnabas’ true nature after hypnotizing him. She convinces him to try to turn himself back to a regular human via blood transfusions, but her real intent is to use his blood to turn herself into a vampire to avoid aging. Upon discovering this betrayal, Barnabas drains her to death and dumps her body into the ocean. Barnabas catches Roger trying to find the secret room and exposes Roger’s lack of interest in his son. Barnabas then gives him a choice of either staying and being a good father to David or leaving the family. Roger chooses to leave, deeply wounding his son’s feelings. Soon afterward, Barnabas rescues David from a falling disco ball and stumbles into a beam of sunlight, burning his skin and exposing his secret to the horrified children and Victoria.
Later that night, Angelique calls Barnabas into her office, coaxes him into confessing Dr. Hoffman’s murder, and traps him in another coffin that she leaves in his family’s crypt. She then burns down the Collins’ canning factory and plays a recording of the murder confession to the police and gathered townsfolk, once more turning them against the family. Angelique leads the mob to Collinwood manor to arrest the family, but Barnabas is rescued from the coffin by David and he shows up at the manor and attacks Angelique in front of the mob, thereby exposing both his and her true natures. As the townspeople disperse, Angelique sets fire to the manor and admits her role in the family’s curse, including turning Carolyn into a werewolf and killing David’s mother at sea. Barnabas and the Collins family fight Angelique until David summons his mother’s vengeful ghost. The ghost gives a single scream which knocks Angelique into a chandelier. Before she dies she pulls out her heart and offers it to Barnabas; he refuses the heart and it shatters as Angelique dies. Barnabas then discovers that Angelique has bewitched Victoria into jumping off the same cliff Josette did. Barnabas arrives moments before Victoria is about to jump and breaks her hypnosis, but she reveals she wanted to fall. She pleads with him to make her a vampire so that they can remain together forever, but he refuses. She then casts herself off, forcing him to follow and bite her to save her life, and Victoria wakes up as a vampire. As the two kiss on the rocks in the waves, the film ends with an underwater scene showing a school of fish swimming away from Hoffman, who suddenly revives because she’s a vampire .
In the 60s, Dark Shadows was a cult soap opera with supernatural themes, similar to one we had not that long ago called Passions. I don’t believe the soap was terribly popular, but it did last a few seasons and has gone on to become a cult favorite. If you are a fan of the series, you have my deepest sympathies for what Tim Burton has done.
What is this about?
Tim Burton’s take on the cult gothic soap follows a centuries-old vampire as he returns to his now-crumbling estate to meet his modern descendants. But what he finds is a house full of secrets and shadows.
What did I like?
Vision. I don’t think that there is a Tim Burton flick that I don’t instantly fall in love with the contrast of light and dark. Well, maybe Alice in Wonderland, but the rest are a nice mix of bright-colored backgrounds with dark stories and characters. This contrast even goes as far as the makeup. The ruby-red lips that Dr. Hoffman and Angelique are sporting, as well as Hoffman’s red hair really stand out in this macabre, dreary town.
Depp. I have to give it up to Johnny Depp, he really creates a vampire that could be frightening, and yet likable. He’s an unapologetic, bloodthirsty, vengeful, lecherous member of the undead and makes no apologies for it. This is a stark contrast to the vampires that have been polluting the screens the past few years. Depp also knocks it out of the park with his acting. I was expecting another character with that same British accent he uses eveyrtime he plays someone from across the pond, such as Jack Sparrow or Sweeny Todd.
70s and new blood. The 70s setting makes for quite some interesting experiences for someone who lived in the 19th century. It is quite the culture shock, especially when you see someone names Alice Cooper, who turns out to be “one ugly woman”. The infusion of two new, extremely attractive actresses, as opposed to the same ones we’ve seen over and over again, Eva Green (Angelique) and Bella Heathcote (Maggie/Victoria/Josette), not to mention the growing star of Chloe Grace Moertz.
What didn’t I like?
Change. I’m torn as to what I think of the change in tone from the original series. On one hand, I enjoyed it, as a film by itself. However, I did watch some episodes of the series this summer, and there were very few things that resembled this film, or vice versa. As I said before, if you’re a fan of the series, I feel your pain for what Burton did to something you truly love. At least they kept the supernatural aspect intact, and the comedy bits add a little spice to it.
Angelique. As much as I was drooling over Eva Green, I wasn’t too fond of the character, Angelique. She is one of those that does nothing but use her feminine wiles and witchcraft to manipulate the town into loving her and doing her bidding, but when Barnabas returns from the grave, she knows it could all very well end, ironically by one of her “creations”. The cracking porcelain face was a nice touch, though.
Pick a genre. One critic said that this film couldn’t decide what genre it wanted to be, horror, comedy, drama, etc. I have to agree, though it wasn’t as much of a distraction for me. I would have liked for it to go full on comedy since that is the direction they chose to go, with a few horror and dram a elements. This is based on a soap opera and deals with vampires, after all.
Ending. I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say that it sets up very nicely for a sequel. The problem is, they kind of tip their hat a little early by showing something they shouldn’t have while this particular character is getting killed. I guess that is more of a goof than a complaint…for now.
Dark Shadows provides some nice entertainment and will probably go on to be a cult favorite in years to come. The film was labeled as a flop this summer, but it came out the week after The Avengers, which went on to be #1 for like close to two months. I think this would have done better being released around Halloween. Do I recommend it? Yeah, this is one of those film you can start off your scary movie parties with as a warm-up, or if you’re into the horror comedy thing, couple this with something like Fido, This definitely worth checking out and is better than people give it credit for. Admittedly, I think I liked it more than I should have!
4 out of 5 stars