This is Tim Burton’s 15th film, and the 3rd Dark Shadows film, to be released since the gothic soap opera began in 1965. It stars Johnny Depp, Bella Heathcote and Eva Green and is scored by the typically exuberant Danny Elfman. I just thought that was worth mentioning.
After 200 years of restless burial, the vampire Barnabus Collins (Johnny Depp) is finally awoken and seeks to restore the name of the Collins business and take revenge on the witch who cursed him, Angelique (Eva Green). However, he finds life in 1972 rather bemusing as he meets the new residents of the Collins household: the greedy father (Johnny Lee Miller), the overbearing mother (Michelle Pfeiffer) and their temperamental teenage daughter (Chloe Moretz) among other less memorable characters such as Helena Bonham Carter doing her Marla Singer impression and Sauraman (if he’d rejected magic and become a fisher, that is).
There’s really something quite entertaining about its straightforwardness: actors are blocked like in soap operas complete with melodramatic twists and even missed cues, and Burton makes no illusions as to the erotic nature within every character. Regardless of your opinion of Tim Burton’s previous work, it has to be handed to him that he’s made the most gothic and erotic movie to come out of Hollywood for a while. In fact it was pretty surprising just how sexual the film was at times with enough double entendres and euphemisms than you can shake your stick at. The ‘sex-fight’ sequence in particular is a comprehensive encapsulation of the best parts of the film – erotic excitement meeting gothic melodrama. Amélie cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel brings an eccentric colour palette to the film (something much needed after Alice in Wonderland) and at times even reminisces of those all-out supernatural Italian horror movies of the 80s. However, it’s in the last twenty minutes or so that the seams of Dark Shadows bursts as a series of sporadic, thinly developed twists (with a largely dissatisfying ending) fail to keep its gears grinding. It feels as if writer Seth Grahame-Smith (who also wrote the upcoming Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) is trying to cram in as much of the 1,225 episodes as possible. Then again, I had the same problem with The Hunger Games and Cabin in the Woods – the last acts of all three films tend to try and surpass the rest of the film by throwing too much into the mix, making the plot development feel flimsy and inconsequential.Did you know? Anne Hathaway auditioned for the role. Her mouth was so convincing, the producers used state of the art plastic surgery to transplant her mouth onto Eva Green.
Though it’s difficult to ignore it’s struggle to balance screen time for each character and it’s disappointing last reel, if you’re looking for a self consciously melodramatic gothic soap opera, that also happens to have some laughs along the way, you could do a lot worse than Dark Shadows.
Did you see Dark Shadows or anything else this week? Post a comment!