Verdict: 4 / 5
One thing is for certain, you will either love Dark Shadows with every fibre of your being or you will hate it so much that you want to stop watching it halfway through. I did not really know what to expect when I first saw Dark Shadows. The reviews were scathing. To my surprise, I absolutely loved the movie but it was clear to me that it was not for everyone.
There are a few things you should know before watching this movie:
1. Do not expect a full on horror or something along the lines of the Barber of Fleetstreet. At best I would have to invent a new genre and call it a fantastical dark comedy.
2. Do not expect a 100% accurate portrayal of the classic television series (this is not that movie).
3. Do not expect the story to make (complete) sense.
4. Do not expect an Oscar Award winning performances.
If however you are a fan of all things quirky and bizarre, and if you have an appreciation for the classics, this movie is for you. If you want horror and realism, easily digestible dialogue and humour or expect a true to bone tribute to your beloved television series – get something else.
In the 1700’s Barnabus Collins (Johnny Depp) journeys to America with his aristocratic parents and are the founders of the town of Collinsport. There they build the grand Collinswood estate and begin a lucrative fish canning company. The young aristocrat soon learns that hell hath no fury like a witch scorned. After jilting Angelique Buschard (Eva Green), a young servant girl of inferior birth, he finds his true love. Unfortunately for him, his decision leads to disastrous consequences for both him and his new love. Unaware that his former lover is a witch, she curses his beloved and then him.
Almost 200 years later Barnabus is accidentally excavated and chaos ensues. Noticeably out-of-place with his archaic clothes and dialect, Barnabus returns to the manor only to find a decrepit mansion, dysfunctional descendants and an ailing family business. He soon vows to restore the business, the manor and the family name to its former glory.
Tim Burton did a few things that I absolutely appreciate; He did not stick to conventions, the characters weren’t dumbed down and he pays homage to the classics.
The movie contains some great characters, an arguably captivating storyline and great attention to detail. The manor is most certainly amazing and richly abundant with hidden passages and secret rooms. Tim Burton once again charms us by combining classic cinematic genius with his own particularly unique and creative style. In all, it’s a visual feast. He also sticks with his winning combos. And though much could be said for a need to branch out and use some different leads, one can’t argue that Johnny and Helena simply fit into his particular brand of quirky. It was also great to see him working with Michelle Pfeiffer again. I thoroughly enjoyed her performance and thought the 70’s styling did her beauty justice. It would, however, be nice to see Burton branch out a little more, if only for a movie or two. Then again if something ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Though there is horror and comedy elements I wouldn’t deign to label it a horror. The movie sometimes borderlines on the absurd and ridiculous but is remarkably witty. As usual Burton’s set was gorgeously gothic. I noticed a lot of ‘Beetlejuice’ elements in the design and even picked up on a shot or two which could have been taken directly out of the famous 20s German Expressionist horror ‘The Cabinet of Dr Caligari’ which was probably the greatest horror movie of the silent era. The attention to detail was a real delight. If you are unfamiliar with the 1970s then this movie will be an education with regards to transport, clothing, music, hair and make-up. You will probably have to watch it more than once to take in the incredible amount of visual information. I am not even going to get myself started on the architecture and special effects. I also enjoyed the music and sound effects and thought it was well executed and mood enhancing.
I was not particularly taken with the werewolf character and feel that could have been left out altogether. The montage after Barnabus’ resurrection was a bit cheesy. I am also still bit touch and go on the famous guest appearance. But in all I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and thought some of the one-liners brilliant. I know some people will make comments about the over the top make-up on the vampires but he did that for a reason. If you don’t get it then at least try to deal with it. As I said to start off with not everyone will enjoy this movie, you’ll know within 20 minutes of watching it which category you fall into. If you don’t enjoy it, just ask someone to give you a hug and go take out something else.