Dark Shadows

Reviewed by Alicia Glass 

Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures

MPAA Rating: PG 13

Director: Tim Burton

Review Rating: 8

Tormented vampire Barnabas Collins returns to his human family’s estate 200 years after his imprisonment, to save them from the machinations of the witch Angelique.

Most of the trailers and previews I saw for this movie made it look utterly slapstick and ridiculous. We have to remember to have faith in director Tim Burton and his multitude of previous film successes, and ignore the fact that he has little to do with the commercials for his movies. There are goofy moments, particularly the vampire with no reflection brushing his fangs in the bathroom and the like, but by and large the movie is quite serious and an actually fine romp through the darkness.

So way back in the 1800’s, the Collins family came from Liverpool England to settle in America, and built a booming fishing town on the coast of Maine, aptly named Collinsport after the family. Son Barnabas (Johnny Depp) has everything, a loving family, wealth in abundance, and did I mention girls? He’s fooling around with Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green), who I gathered to be a servant in Collinwood manor, only to brush her off with the “I don’t love you” card after he’s had her. Soon thereafter, with Barnabas narrating, we learn that he’s acquired his one true love Josette DuPres (Bella Heathcote), and of course this pisses off Angelique no end, allowing us to learn that she’s actually a witch. She sends Josette to her death over a cliff, and curses dear Barnabas not only with vampirism, but incites the townsfolk to bury him in a shielded coffin. Fast forward a couple hundred years, and Barnabus’ coffin is accidentally found and opened in a construction site, where you know, he duly does apologize, and then proceeds to devour every single last hapless worker. It turns out that Angelique is still around in Collinsport, trying her very best to buy up every last port and boat on the fishing lines, and basically oust the Collins out of everything. Boy, witches hold grudges forever don’t they? Barnabas returns to Collinwood manor to take stock of whats left of the Collins family, and their fortune. Of course by now the fortune is all but gone, and the family is rather snarky with eachother. Elizabeth Collins (Michelle Pfieffer) is current acting head of the family, and while she might not be supernatural per se, you won’t find a stronger woman anywhere. Roger Collins (Johnny Lee Miller) is her weak and greedy brother, sans his wife, and his one child David, who they all think is emotionally disturbed because well, he’s talking to his mother. Who happens to be a helpful ghost. Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter) was brought to the manor to counsel David, but she most often spends her days in a drunken or hangover-y stupor, and seems to dispense lackadaisical advice to the whole family slapdash-style. Carolyn (Chloe Grace Moretz) is the resentful and delightfully blunt teenage daughter of Elizabeth, it turns out she harbors more than the usual pent-up teenage aggression – she’s a werewolf. And then there’s Willie Loomis (Jackie Earl Haley), jack of all trades servant to the family, whom of course Barnabus just has to make his first mindless servant, when he’s completely plastered of course.

So Barnabas the vampire is determined to save and restore the Collins family to their proper place, which he does with apparent gusto, even braving the outside during the day. With a lacy black parasol and tons of sunscreen, I adore the authenticity. He and the remade Angie came to arguments, then blows, then there’s the angry telekinetic sex scene, more recriminations, and eventually all-out war. Meanwhile, Victoria Winters the new nanny, who is of course supposed to be the reincarnation of Barnabus’ one true love Josette, has been spending time with everyone in the family and is now convinced she’s in love with him in return. I did wish, amongst all the funnery there was in the movie, that a shade more attention had been paid to the romance that was supposed to be fated between Barnabas and Victoria, but hey, there’s only so much one can cram into two hours. There’s a party at Collinwood manor that features the one and only Alice Cooper, the movie gods had Carolyn give the intro to one of Cooper’s more infamous songs, and I about died. Soon after comes the final confrontation between the Collins family and the witch Angelique, there won’t be any more spoilers from me here, but the ending rocked my little world!

Enjoyable despite, or it’s entirely possible because of, the movie’s darkness and gloom, Dark Shadows is a vaunted effort at a loving remake thatHollywood should truly learn from.

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