Dark Shadows

An imprisoned vampire, Barnabas Collins, is set free and returns to his ancestral home, where his dysfunctional descendants are in need of his protection.


Writers: Seth Grahame-Smith (screenplay), John August (story), Dan Curtis (television series)
Director: Tim Burton
Stars: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer and Eva Green
Runtime: 112 Minutes
Popcorn Score: Medium Popcorn with Butter

Adapting a popular television show to fit the mainstream big screen movie going audience these days is pretty tough to do, unless that popular TV series was never very popular at all and is in fact just a 70’s cult classic soap opera that most people have no recollection of.  Then you can pretty much do what you want with it.

Now, I realize that is a bit of an exaggeration because the show was a success for over 5 years in the 70’s and the fans of the series will represent a minority of the audience to this movie.  The majority I would argue are going to be the younger, Johnny Depp, vampire crowd that might not even know this was an adaptation.  I fall closer to the latter so I was going in pretty fresh, which is exactly how I found the movie to feel.

Tim Burton and Johnny Depp team up as director/lead for the 8th time since “Edward Scissorhands” in 1990 and deliver one of my personal favorites of the duo.  I am not a gigantic fan of all of the movies they have made but they have obviously had success as a team.  In “Dark Shadows” they both bring to the table everything you have come to expect. Tim Burton with beautiful but dark imagery, magnificent makeup, set design, and cinematography.  Depp engulfs himself in the role and sells every moment from the comedy to the horror.

The story starts in the late 1700’s with a narrative and visual montage in true Burton-style showing the Collins family, recent immigrants from Liverpool, building their fishing industry in the town that would be come Collinsport.  Young Barnabas Collins (Depp) is set to become the head of the family business but soon falls in love with glowing Josette (Belle Heathcote) rejecting the desires of Angelique, who just happens to be a witch.

Angelique sets a spell on Josette which sends her plummeting to her death into the crashing waves over the scariest rock cliff ever imagined.  Barnabus launches after her.  Angelique, seeing this display of love, curses Barnabus on his way down to everlasting life as a vampire, now without his love.  Barnabus is exposed, and locked up in chains and a coffin for 200 years.

The Moody Blues welcome us to the 1970’s as we flash forward to see what is left of the Collins hierarchy and castle. It is a small, fairly penniless family composing of Elizabeth Collins (Michelle Pfeiffer), who runs the family fortunes; her teenage daughter, Carolyn (Chloe Grace Moretz); Elizabeth’s unfaithful brother, Roger (Jonny Lee Miller); Roger’s haunted son, David (Gully McGrath), and a live-in psychiatrist named Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter).

Barnabas is awaken from the grave in the same city that he once knew 200 years ago and the story is set up for an out of place vampire to acclimate himself to the times and rebuild his families legacy.

Much of the comedy comes from watching the learning process of a polite vampire figuring out what is happening in a familiar land where nothing looks the same.  I laughed out loud and found the comedy to come pretty naturally from the story and more often than I imagined it would.  There are perhaps a few too many 70’s popular culture little bits added at times for its own good, but those may be “Dark Shadow” inside jokes that I didn’t get.

The love triangle between Barnabas, the witch Angleique, and the newly arrived Victoria, who is at the house as the nanny for David and played coincidentally by Belle Heathcote, has just enough drive to that aspect of the story.  If I were to consider it a love story I would say it is quite unconventional and very far from in your face.  I was entertained throughout the 112 minute runtime and left the theater feeling satisfied with an off the wall, out of the ordinary comedy with great performances and great visuals.

Medium Popcorn with Butter.

Leave a Reply