Movie Reviews

‘Dark Shadows’: Love can be malicious

By Wang DexianMovies - 10 May 2012 11:15 AM | Updated 18 May 2012

‘Dark Shadows’: Love can be malicious

Bad things have happened in this room, very very bad things

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

The Cast: Johnny Depp, Eva Green, Michelle Pfeiffer, Chloë Grace Moretz, Helena Bonham Carter, Bella Heathcote, Jonny Lee Miller, Christopher Lee, Alice Cooper

The Buzz: Besides being a remake of a 1970s soap opera, the film also marks the eighth time that director Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have collaborated together on a film.

The Story: It is 1752 and Barnabas Collins sets sail with his parents, Joshua and Naomi from Liverpool to North America. There, the family runs a successful fishing empire and Barnabas becomes the heir of the Collins family. He grows up exceeding handsome and adopts a playboy lifestyle long before it was fashionable.

"This movie has no teeth? Bite me!"

Unfortunately for him, he breaks the heart of a servant, Angelique Bouchard who just happens to be a witch and does terrible things to the Collins family, including killing Barnabas' parents, his lover and turning him into a vampire. She turns the town against him and buries him alive. When he finally awakes in 1972, Barnabas discovers that his manor, Collinwood is a mere shadow of its previous shell, and seeks to restore it.

inSing.com thinks: 8 times. That is the amount of times that Johnny Depp and Tim Burton have collaborated and this partnership is surely in the realm of other auteur/muse partnerships like Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese. While we’re no hardcore fan of this particular pairing, Depp-Burton movies have always had an element of eccentricity and weird humour to them and ‘Dark Shadows’ is no different.

What ‘Dark Shadows’ does well is clear: Johnny Depp is clearly having fun playing a vampire, hamming it up with relish with a classy Victorian accent and playing for laughs with his fish out of water predicament.

Also read: 9 best Johnny Depp characters

The mix of comedy and campy horror gives Depp lots of room to get his freak on and the results are mostly effective. Paired with Eva Green playing the role of the spurned witch, the two are often electric on screen, constantly walking a tightrope of “Will he or won't he?”

Green is a particular delight, playing the role of the villainous vixen with a playful sneer that fits in well with the rest of the movie; the highlight being a supernatural powered sex romp between her and Depp's vampire. The balance between camp and horror is struck quite nicely and delivers quite a few laughs although it might not be that accessible to everyone else's tastes. It's really quite a bizarre mix of comedy, horror, camp and even a fair bit of melodrama, thanks to the movie's theme of familial relations constantly coming into play.

Also read: Interview with Johnny Depp

Obviously with ‘Dark Shadows’ being a Burton movie, there is some great Gothic art direction throughout and he also turns it into a homage to two things he obviously loves: vampires and the 70s. Cameos from Christopher Lee, the most famous Dracula and Alice Cooper, the vaudeville-horror inspired rock-God from the 70s certainly drive that point home and will be a hoot for any viewer who knows their stuff.

Unfortunately, the major ensemble cast is somewhat of a let-down. Michelle Pfeiffer's embattled “Elizabeth Collins Stoddard” matriarch is a great supporting character. Beset with dealing with the downward spiral of her family, she secretly allows Barnabas back in the fold, seeing the good man that he still is and the good it could bring to her family.

Chloe Grace Moretz has emerged as one of the film industry’s most sought-after young actresses

It's a performance that shows her weariness but there is still the dry wit that Pfeiffer is known for. Other than that, the rest of the cast is just there to make up the numbers, although Chloe Moretz's young hippie “rock grrl” character added a tinge of comedy to otherwise morose family

Where the movie truly runs into some problems is through its script, which might be slightly too ambitious for its own good. The movie attempts to cover a lot of ground, almost too much, with themes like love and possession playing out between Barnabas and Angelique. Not to mention the familial love emphasized right at the start of the movie by Barnabas and his father.

Also read: 2012 summer movie preview - The remakes

The broad scope of these two themes, coupled with it being set against a corporate war between the Collins' and Angelique's fishing companies make the film a little too bipolar for its own good, as it swings to-and-fro from Barnabas' quest to end his curse and find true love. Thus, the film does feel a little too uneven.

Despite all that, ‘Dark Shadows’ is a fun offering. Stylish, humorous and at times, just plain eccentric, ‘Dark Shadows’  could surely have benefited from a tighter focus but still, it has enough moments to earn your 10 bucks... especially if you're a diehard fan of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp.

'Dark Shadows' is showing in theatres everywhere