Tim Burton immediately catapults his viewers into the epic story of Barnabas Collins, the curse laid upon him, the creation of his family’s empire and the power of scorned love. The film Dark Shadows offers the visual richness which we have come to expect from Burton, but this time the visual style is pushed far beyond our expectations. Primarily favoring dark and muted tones that he is known for, the palette is extended for this film and includes the swirling neon and peacock fashions prominent in America in the 1970’s.
First a brief summary:
In the year 1750, Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) travels with his parents from his home in London to Maine where they revolutionize the fishing industry. The town is named after them, Collinsport. Servant girl, Angelique (Eva Green) falls in love with Baranabas. He has an affair with her, but falls in love with another woman and denies ever having feeling for Angelique. Little does Barnabas realize that Angelique has the power to ruin his life permanently as he loses his parents and his lover in “tragic accidents.” Finally she curses him to live eternally as a vampire and he is enclosed in a casket and buried alive until 1972. The majority of the film happens from this point forward as his is reunited with the town that his family has created and the new generation of the Collins family.
With many familiar actors; Helena Bonham Carter (Alice in Wonderland, strangely her character in this film resembled her evil Queen with extreme parted hair and dramatic make-up), Christopher Lee (as the ship captain in this film; he is recognizable from most of Burton’s films including Sleepy Hollow), and of course Johnny Depp who is the only actor that I can imagine being able to live through this character who embodies both feminine delicacy and animalistic passion. The fresh (to Burton) faces were also well suited to the film. The stand outs for me were Chloe Grace Mortez (Hugo and Kick Ass) as the teen Carolyn and the remarkable Eva Green (Dreamers and Casino Royale). Green was new to me but she stole every scene. With freakish porcelain doll beauty, a gravelly sexy voice, eyes that reflect power and dominance and a figure which Burton takes advantage of by costuming in exquisite pieces, she moves both like a cat and an automaton in a dizzying array of character changes. I’d be remiss not to mention the strangely apt cameo of Alice Cooper.
Burton has fun using “dark shadows” throughout the film and his mastery and campy use of old monster relics is at its finest. From a ghost floating mystically through the air, to a blood infusion machine that could be in Dr. Frankenstein’s lab there is a diabolical treat around every corner. Perhaps my favorite throwback, yet completely freshly designed image is of the fireplace that opens to reveal stairs to a secret liar.
The original music is by Burton’s regular collaborator Danny Elfman and once again perfectly propels the film which also includes a huge range of music from the era including everything from The Moody Blues and T. Rex to Iggy Pop and the Carpenters.
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Yes, this is a glowing review, but my undying fandom for Tim Burton doesn’t make it impossible for me to see that there are flaws in the film. For example; there are many questions that I left with including, how did the daughter end up being what we learn she is, is Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer) the only family member without a secret and some consistency questions. That said- if you’re a fan of dark movies, enjoy a quirky well written set of dialog with great one liners and plenty of laughs, appreciate a film with a simple heart of a message, (in this case, blood is thicker than water) then this movie is well worth the price of admission and definitely a thrill to see on the big screen.