‘Dark Shadows’ – It’s Johnny Depp and Tim Burton, Kind of Says It All

Directed by Tim Burton (2012)
“Place your lips upon my posterior and kiss it repeatedly.” – Best line EVER! The original 1960s show Dark Shadows was off the air before I was a thought in my parent’s heads, but I had the pleasure of having a grandma whom liked her soaps. For instance did you know Elizabeth Taylor was once on General Hospital? Well she was, Dame Liz was Helena Cassadine as a matter of fact.

So when they aired the revival of the series in the 90s, since I was an odd duck and angsty teenager, all things Goth was fine by me. And nothing fit that description better than an angsty vampire hanging out in a creepy house.

Later when they put the old show on DVD, I was all set. But the 90s version was a bit different that the 60s version. A lot different. The 90s version took itself serious. Gone were the elements that made the 60s version what I think we should just call – FUN! A few of the episodes were shot live as were the other soap operas of the time. So there are shadows from boom mikes and that odd soundtrack organ music thing going during the dramatic pauses. And the acting is melodrama on steroids! You have to mention the show’s amped up special effects, which consisted of a smoke machine and lighting flashes. Again FUN!

Enter Barnabas Collins played by the late Jonathan Friedemann. Friedemann took a character that could have been silly and turned him into an anti- hero of sorts. He played Barnabas as a soap opera villain, you know J.R. Ewing with fangs. Wait that was too far no one is badass as J.R., but Barnabas was in that vein. He played the melodrama with all the serious in the world. Think Angel.

Now about this film version…we have the hotness that is forever Johnny Depp with his life partner Tim Burton putting their spin on the story of Barnabus Collins and the tales of Collinport.

In 1760, Joshua and Naomi Collins sail from Liverpool, England to North America. They set up a fishing port in Maine called Collinsport, and also build Collinwood Manor. Their son, Barnabas, grows up to be a wealthy playboy in the town. He later breaks the heart of a witch, Angelique Bouchard, who kills his parents and curses his family. He then uses dark magic and tries to prove Angelique is in fact a witch. Angelique, in an act of jealousy, puts a spell on his lover Josette du Pres which forces her to leap to her death from a nearby cliff called Widow’s Peak. Barnabas runs after Josette but is too late. He jumps over the cliff to kill himself, but Angelique turns Barnabas into a vampire. She convinces the townspeople that he is a vampire, and they capture him, burying him alive in a chained coffin in the woods.

In 1972 during a construction crews digging, Barnabas is freed.

Now I’m not a Dark Shadows purist or a Tim Burton loyalist, but for the most part, I liked this film well enough. It basically does what Tim Burton films do. It’s beautiful, in every cinematic way. The soundtrack by Danny Elfman is great. The costumes, the sets, the shots are all so pretty. You know like a Tim Burton film.

Aside from Johnny Depp the film also stars: Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter (of course), Jackie Earle Haley, Jonny Lee Miller and Chloë Moretz. But for the way the actors are used in the film you will not remember they are a cast of really great actors. They serve as window dressing for the mansion, but I think the way Ms. Bonham Carter is used sets up a definitepossible sequel. Pfeiffer utters a line or two every once in a while, but for much it – it’s all about Johnny D and Eva Green, who plays Angelique. Now, I hear some rumblings here and there about people not being in love with Johnny’s brand of zany character acting. But, to me, Depp’s portrayal of Barnabas is the best part of the film.

Now if you divorce yourself from the pretty visuals and the performance of the Depp, it’s where the problems of Dark Shadows start. First it’s toooooooo long. Sometimes as much as he tried Depp couldn’t rescue a bad joke, watch for the montage with the tooth brushing. There was also a few storylines that we never really fully explore, Barnabus’ love interest has an odd backstory that was all Sixth Sense-like, but it’s never really explained. Her striking resemblance to the departed Josette is kind of ignored.

I would say Dark Shadows should be watched, but don’t expect it to be a change your life film. If you’re not a Tim Burton, Johnny Depp fan sit this one out. Dark Shadows is currently at a theater near you.