Review of Dark Shadows

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Based on the 1966–1971 gothic soap opera of the same name, this supernatural dramedy film is directed by Tim Burton and stars Johnny Depp as a 200-year-old vampire by the name of Barnabas Collins. After being imprisoned in an underground tomb, Collins is accidentally freed and returns to his ancestral home, where his dysfunctional descendants are in need of his protection. Michelle Pfeiffer plays the role of Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, Barnabas' cousin and the reclusive matriarch of the Collins family.
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Movie Review: "Dark Shadows"

--Rating: PG-13 (for sexual content, comic horror brutality, some profane language, substance use, and smoking)
Length: 113 minutes
Release Date: May 10, 2012
Directed By: Tim Burton
Genre: Comedy, Fantasy

"Dark Shadows" had been a long-running series on American day time television between 1966 and 1971. It had a wobbly set, a rather serious tone, and relatively fine special effects. However, its gothic and ghostly overtones foreshadowed the inception of "Angel," "Buffy," and a handful of other vampire movies.

There have been two previous attempts to adapt feature movies in the series, namely "Night of Dark Shadows," a rather minor hit in 1971, and "House of Dark Shadows" in 1970. Again, Tim Burton has made a conscious effort to give a pricey respect to the old series, creating a degree of comedy and making a vehicle for the stardom of Johnny Depp. Burton reverts to the original tone he has been excelling-American gothic combined with humor-which he used to make "Beetlejuice" such a big hit.

The story goes back in the later part of the 18th century when the good-looking, social prominent Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) makes a love affair with a house made named Angelique (Eva Green). Due to social class differences, Barnabas shuns her in preference for a pretty young lady (Bella Heathcote).

Barnabas had no idea that the house made was not just an ordinary woman, but was actually a punitive witch, making his lover hurl herself off a high cliff and condemning him to unending misery as a vampire. That was not enough, though. She also went to the extreme of burying him alive.

A leap forward from 1972, a fragile young lady who looks very much like Barnaba's lost sweetheart (Heathcote) embarks on a journey to find a job at Collins' ancient dwelling, which now belongs to a remote progeny. These descendants are Michelle Pfeiffer (the matriarch), Jonny Lee Miller (the matriarch's treacherous brother), Chloe Grace Moretz (the matriarch's sullen daughter), and Gully McGrath (a young lad who can see dead persons).

Dug up by a group of construction workers, Barnabas satisfies his two-century thirst for blood by killing all of them. Thereafter, he rambles to his hometown and is amazed at the culture of the seventies.

He returns to his old residence, makes his eerie chief male servant (Jackie Earle Haley) as his private assistant, and gives his all to prevent making a contact with the family's continuously drunk, in-house child psychologist (Helena Bonham Carter).

Although Barnabas believes that his only wealth is his family, he makes ardent efforts to revive the financial status of his progeny. Expectedly, his eyes are charmed by the blue-eyed tutoress who resembles very closely with his past lover. He is also cautious of the pretty businesswoman Angie (Green) who appears much like Angelique, the witch he spurns and treated the wrong manner two hundred years earlier.

Indeed, the film made a very promising setup. Cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel and designer Rick Heinrichs made the old mansion extremely wonderful and very impressive. Using his appalling old house and dangerous cliffs, Burton obviously hoped to create the essence of Hitchcock's "Rebecca."Sadly, the movie seemed to be somewhat more of a "Death Becomes Her" of Robert Zemeckis from 1992.

Darkness may have worked against the comedy. To some extent, the movie has not given much attention and importance to the working men whom Barnabas slaughtered very haphazardly upon returning from the dead. The film unfolds as though the young tutoress is the leading actress, but it ignores her almost completely the moment Barnabas awakes from his two hundred years of slumber.

A clear explanation about the tutoress' association with the 18th century occurrences and her love escapade with Barnabas is not provided. Since the love story is just an addition, the movie mainly focuses on the wealth of the family and no more. Green gives her all to make her participation worthy. In fact, she was sexier than the original leading actress, which could have provided a really dark, perversive spin.

Depp brings one liners by using a cut English accent. The problem is that so many culture-clash cracks break down, leading to his incomplete development. Being at the center of the film, Depp is a complacent, inert, and somewhat cold actor as compared to his normal way of being charismatic and energetic. Although the film does not give enough roles for each character, it does a good job of inspiring awe and terror to audiences who love seeing eerie films and feeling their bone-cracking effects.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars