Monday, October 1, 2012

Dark Shadows (2012)

It’s 1760, and Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) is happily in love with Josette du Pres (Bella Heathcote). Barnabas enjoys life in Collinsport, as the wealthy bachelor, and he continues to live a luxurious lifestyle, with the help of his parent’s money of course. Barnabas wants to spend the rest of his life with Jossette, but Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green) has other plans. Angelique is obsessed with Baranabas, but Collins isn’t in love with her. Well, Angelique is an evil and jealous witch, who practices black magic. She can’t handle the rejection, and Barnabas will have to suffer some serious consequences for Angelique’s broken heart. After destroying Baranabas’ life, she decides to turn him into a vampire. Angleique furthers her quest for vengeance by wrapping Barnabas in chains, and with the help of the townspeople, she locks him inside a coffin.

After two centuries, Barnabas is accidentally freed from his coffin prison, and after a brutal feeding frenzy, he returns to Collinsport. Barnabas was once a powerful and rich playboy. His parents were the owners of a very lucrative fishing port, and Barnabas was a respected member of the community, but times have changed.

Things are different in 1972, and Collinwood Manor has become an old, dusty, rundown mansion, and the Collins name has lost the great amount of respect it once had. Angel Bay Fishery is the #1 fishing port in town, and Angelique is the owner, who proudly destroyed the Collins’ family business. Barnabas wants to restore glory and pride to the Collins name, so he makes a deal with the matriarch of the modern day Collins family: Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer) agrees to keep Barnabas’ vampire identity a secret, and in return, Barnabas will use his secret fortune of jewelry to help the fishing port, and provide a much needed renovation for the mansion. But Angelique is still holding a grudge. She will do anything to possess Barnabas, and Angelique won’t take no for an answer.

Well, you’ll probably hate this film, if you’re a fan of the Dark Shadows gothic horror soap opera that ran from 1966 to 1971, because Tim Burton doesn’t make a real effort to pay homage to the TV series that inspired this film. Over the past few months, I’ve had the chance to watch a handful of episodes from the old Dark Shadows TV series, and I really enjoyed every episode. It’s a nice spooky horror show, that featured some good acting and writing, and most episodes did feature some shocking plot twists. I also caught a marathon of the 1991 revival of Dark Shadows on the Chiller channel. Not as good as the original series, but still enjoyable.

Dark Shadows is supposed to be a horror comedy, but this film isn’t scary at all. As far as the comedy goes, getting through any scene that didn’t involve Eva Green or Johnny Depp did feel like a real chore at times. Green and Depp provide the bulk of enjoyable humor in this film, but Dark Shadows couldn’t provide consistent laughs.

Dark Shadows couldn’t satisfy me as a horror film, and this film was mildly entertaining as a comedy. Yeah, my score for this film is probably a little high, because Dark Shadows deserves worse. But I can’t deny how much I enjoyed the cast here. Johnny Depp’s routine as the awkward vampire, who couldn’t adjust to the modern world was just hilarious. Depp could provide laughs, but he could also showcase as a serious side, as a cold and viscous vampire killer. Angelique is a sultry witch, but Green could also bring out the nasty bitch inside of Angelique. She was able to bring some sex appeal to this character, and Green’s performance was just fantastic. Michelle Pfeiffer really nailed the matriarch character, and Chloë Grace Moretz was very believable, as the disgruntled and rebellious teenage girl with issues. Jonny Lee Miller (Roger) really did look like the sleazy thief, who would do anything for money. And Helena Bonham Carter provided another enjoyable performance as Dr. Julia Hoffman.

The cast is superb, and Dark Shadows does feature some great acting, but Tim Burton really dropped the ball here. Am I watching a horror film? Is this supposed to be a full blown comedy? Or is Tim Burton trying to turn this into a gothic soap opera? These questions continued to pop into my mind throughout the film, and Dark Shadows really doesn’t have a true identity. Burton’s eccentric imagination runs wild here, and his bizarre vision did feel confusing most of the time.

Burton’s wackiness was bad enough, and the story was a complete mess. In the early stages of this film, the audience learns about the troubles of the youngest member of the family, David Collins (Gulliver McGrath). Nobody believes David’s sightings of a ghost, and Elizabeth hires a mysterious drifter to help him. Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcote) becomes David’s governess, and she tries to help David….but as the story progresses, David and his sightings of ghosts become an afterthought. The focus shifts towards the rivalry between Barnabas and Angelique, and David’s storyline slowly fades away. Also, there’s a mystery surrounding Victoria, and she eventually becomes Barnabas’ love interest, so you have to add Victoria to the overload of storylines in this film.

They tried to cram so many storylines into this film, and Dark Shadows couldn’t maintain any sort of continuity. Am I really supposed to forget about a 10 year old kid, who sees ghost? But wait! That’s not important anymore, because we have to develop another storyline with Barnabas and Victoria! Ugh.

Luckily, Dark Shadows features another strong performance from Johnny Depp, and the entire supporting cast was fantastic. Also, Dark Shadows features some impressive visuals, and the CGI effects were excellent. This was a big disappointment for me, because Dark Shadows could’ve been so much better. They had some great source material to work with, but Tim Burton's directing really hurt this one, and he couldn’t produce a coherent film. Dark Shadows ranks very low on my list of Burton/Depp collaborations. For years, Corpse Bride has been my pick for the worst Depp/Burton collaboration, but Dark Shadows does provide some serious competition.

Final Rating: 5/10

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