Friday, 18 May 2012

Film Review: "Dark Shadows" (2012)

"My name is Barnabas Collins. Two centuries ago, I made Collinwood my home... until a jealous witch cursed me, condemning me to the shadows, for all time." This is the premise of the screen version of Dark Shadows. This horror comedy film based on the 1966–1971 gothic horror soap opera of the same name, directed by Tim Burton. An imprisoned vampire, Barnabas Collins, is set free and returns to his ancestral home, where his dysfunctional descendants are in need of his protection.

Dark Shadows was based on the American gothic soap opera that originally aired on the ABC television network, from June 27, 1966, to April 2, 1971. The show was created by Dan Curtis. It was unprecedented in daytime television when ghosts were introduced about six months after it began. The series became hugely popular when vampire Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid) appeared a year into its run. Dark Shadows also featured werewolves, zombies, man-made monsters, witches, warlocks, time travel, and a parallel universe. Dark Shadows was distinguished by its vividly melodramatic performances, atmospheric interiors, memorable storylines, numerous dramatic plot twists, unusually adventurous music score, and broad and epic cosmos of characters and heroic adventures. Now regarded as something of a camp classic, it continues to enjoy an intense cult following. Although the original series ran for only five years, its scheduling as a daily daytime drama allowed it to amass more single episodes during its run (1,225) than most other science-fiction/fantasy genre series produced for English-language television, including Doctor Who and the entire Star Trek television franchise. Directors Tim Burton had publicly stated that he is a fan of the series. As a child, Johnny Depp was so obsessed with Barnabas Collins that he wanted to be him.

The film stars Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins, a 200-year-old vampire. Michelle Pfeiffer as his cousin Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, a reclusive matriarch of the Collins family. Helena Bonham Carter as Dr. Julia Hoffman, the family's live-in psychiatrist. Eva Green as Angelique Bouchard, a vengeful witch who plots a vendetta against Barnabas and his family. Bella Heathcote as Victoria Winters, David's governess and Barnabas' love interest. As well as Jackie Earle Haley, Jonny Lee Miller, Chloƫ Grace Moretz and Gulliver McGrath. The performances in this film were mixed. On one hand, they were exuberantly performed and humorous. On the other hand, they were rather too melodramatic and over performed at times. This especially concerns Depp, whose collaboration with Burton has now grown thin.

It looks good enough but in truth, Dark Shadows is not as much fun as it should be. Few of its numerous actors make a lasting impression and Burton's heart and soul is not in the humor. Even Ed Wood himself could have told us what's wrong with the film: the makers felt superior to the material. To be funny, even schlock has to believe in itself. Look at the original television series and you will find a show that lack stars and big budgets and fancy special effects but are funny and fun in a way that Burton's mega-production never really understands.

Simon says Dark Shadows receives:

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