Tim Burton’s gang is at it again in the 70s soap opera reboot of Dark Shadows though one cannot help but ask: Why? Known to be rather campy, even in its time, Dark Shadows does not avoid this and takes it even further on the big screen. With elaborate sets and loud costumes, Burton and Depp — who also is the producer — deliver a ridiculous period comedy about the importance of family, true love and how to best deal with an insatiable blood-lust.
It’s 1760 and the Collins’ family is making their voyage to the new world to expand their family’s prosperity. Following the completion of their estate — 15 years in the making — darkness begins following young Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp). When his parents are killed in a mysterious accident he is convinced his paranoia is not without reason. A young maid, Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green), tends to Barnabas’s estate as well as his physical needs. Barnabas realises he can never love Angelique and ends their affair sending her into a jealous rage. She places a curse on him changing him into a vampire after leading his true love on a hypnotic walk over a cliff. Angelique seals Barnabas in a sarcophagus and buries him un-dead.
Fast-forward 196 years and Barnabas is released from his tomb after construction workers unearth his grave. An apologetic serial killing ensues, which offers audiences the beginnings to understanding this gentleman turned monster. He returns to his old estate to find it in shambles with the Collins barely able to stay afloat. Barnabas vows to restore the family name and protect his family at any cost. It seems things might be looking up for the Collins until an old witch digs up new trouble for this dysfunctional group who call themselves a family.
With twisted trees, long driveways, massive mansions and Danny Elfman music there is no mistaking this film to be any other director’s beside Burton. Bringing with him a slew of former collaborators this film’s success comes from it’s supporting female cast, not just the fame of Depp. Green is dangerously seductive and oozes sexuality from every pore; Michelle Pfeiffer is stunning as the matriarch of the family, and like Barnabas would do anything to defend her family; and Chloë Grace Moretz continues to intrigue as she turns on the teen angst to a near intolerable level, which is perfect if you’d ever had to speak with a teenager before.
Most of the comedy comes from jokes regarding the year. Comparisons are made throughout the picture regarding just how much has changed in the past two centuries. Proper English is juxtaposed to the slang of the American 70s. The man-turned-vampire angle is also prominently featured. Barnabas constantly forgets his limitations as a vampire, at one point catching fire because he’s standing in the sunlight.
This is certainly not the best work from Burton and Depp but compared to Willy Wonka and Alice in Wonderland this is quite refreshing. Dark Shadows mistake is incorporating three storylines in on film. Though Barnabas is the main story, there are two involving the young governess of the Collins, Victoria (Bella Heathcote), and David Collins (Gulliver McGrath), the youngest child of the family who recently lost his mother. It doesn’t get too convoluted but the occasional jump between story focuses is jarring at times. Clearly this is a bit of a passion piece for these folks and they’ve crafted something worth seeing.