¨It is said that blood is thicker than water. It is what joins us, binds us... curses us. My name is Barnabas Collins, and this is my tale.¨
Dark Shadows is the latest collaboration between director Tim Burton and actor Johnny Depp; it happens to be their eighth time working together. The bond between them just might be thicker than blood. Their friendship began when they worked together in Edward Scissorhands more than 20 years ago and it has developed from there on as they`ve collaborated with each other repeatedly, making some great films together and others not so much. Dark Shadows will be one of those films that fall in the not so great category and may perhaps be a sign that their collaboration together is getting old and repetitive. We all know how great of an actor Johnny Depp is and he`s always enjoyed to play these kind of eccentric characters. That is why Tim Burton seemed to be a perfect fit for him as a director because he`s such a great art director who is able to paint an eccentric vision of the world. Actually that is the only element that worked in Alice in Wonderland, and is what saves Dark Shadow from being rotten: the fantastic art direction. Burton takes us back to the 70`s with some wonderful visuals and recreates a small fishing town to perfection. Johnny Depp also gets to play a very eccentric character once again as he`s a vampire who`s just awoke from the 18th century, so it plays out as the classic fish out of the water tale. But just like in almost every Burton film, you can`t fit his movie into one specific genre as it mixes dark comedy with horror, fantasy and some romance. Dark Shadows at times fits in all of these categories and at others it’s just hard to figure out what Burton was trying to do.
During the 18th century the Collins family leaves England and arrives in America with the prospect of building a fishing empire. They do so and end up having the town named after them: Collinsport. They build an enormous mansion and have several servants working for them, but they fall under an evil curse when their son Barnabas (Johnny Depp) breaks the heart of a witch named Angelique (Eva Green). He tells her that he doesn’t love her and ends up falling in love with the beautiful Josette (Bella Heathcote). Angelique curses the family by killing Barnabas`s parents, Josette, and turning Barnabas into a vampire and burying him alive inside a coffin. The story then jumps to the year 1972 where we are introduced to the surviving members of the Collins family residing in the very same mansion which is now in evident decay: Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer) and her teen daughter Carolyn (Chloe Grace Moretz), Elizabeth`s widowed brother Roger (Jonny Lee Miller) and his tormented son David (Gulliver McGrath), and their staff which consists of David`s psychiatrist Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter), Willie Loomis (Jackie Earle Haley), and Mrs. Johnson (Ray Shirley). Barnabas is released from his coffin by accident when some construction workers find the coffin and open it. He returns to the mansion which is now in ruins and after convincing Elizabeth of his true identity promises that he will restore the family to its former glory. What he doesn’t know is that the town is run by Angelique now he is still very much alive and hasn’t aged one bit.
The first half of the movie worked for me as a very dark comedy. I actually enjoyed the film, until the final act which just went a little too far in its bizarre act and eccentricities (even for Tim Burton standards). The final act was a disappointment, but I did enjoy most parts of the story. Johnny Depp played his usual strange self and Michelle Pfeiffer was great in her role. She claimed to be a fan of the original soap opera that took place during the late 60`s and 70`s which this film is actually based on. Despite the television show not being a comedy, this film actually plays out as one in the same way most 70`sand 80`s TV series are being turned into in recent years. I am a big fan of Chloe Grace Moretz and have followed her since her work in 500 Days of Summer, Kick Ass, and Let Me In. I wish she had been given more screen time because she is always a delight to watch on screen and had an interesting character. Dark Shadows is a very weird movie and definitely not for everyone; it won`t be ranked among Burton`s best work either (not even close) so I don`t know if fans will actually enjoy this film, but I did have enough of a good time during most of the film to give this film a passing grade.