REVIEW – ‘Dark Shadows’
Based on the ’60s soap opera of the same name, Dark Shadows follows the adventures of Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp), an 18th-century vampire buried alive by the people of Collinsport, Maine, after breaking the heart of a scullery maid that just so happened to be a powerful sorceress. Awakened nearly two centuries later in the year 1972, Barnabas returns to his family estate to find the mansion in ruins and the remaining family members struggling to survive.
After revealing his dark secret to matriarch Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer) and vowing to restore the family name to its former glory, Barnabas becomes smitten with Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcote), a young governess caring for the youngest member of the Collins family who bears a striking resemblance to Josette DuPres, the woman Barnabas loved as a young man.
Desperate for another opportunity to find love, he begins to seek courting advice from Elizabeth’s flower child daughter, Carolyn (Chloe Grace Moretz) and enlists the help of the family’s live-in psychiatrist (Helena Bonham Carter) to discover a cure for his condition. It doesn’t take long for the return of Barnabas to catch the attention of local fishing magnate Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green), the ruthless businesswoman responsible for the destruction of the Collins empire – and the same scullery maid that locked him away in a coffin some 200 years ago.
Despite themes of love, obsession, betrayal and revenge, Burton has made the curious decision to eschew the material’s soap opera roots and reimagine Dark Shadows as a comedy. As Barnabas attempts to familiarize himself with the strange new world around him, Depp’s wide-eyed stare and deadpan delivery ensure that the fish-out-of-water humor works more often than not, but many of the other jokes that attempt to poke fun of the era’s “sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll” attitude fall flat.
Dark Shadows marks the eighth collaboration between Depp and director Tim Burton, and while the film features many familiar trapping of the Depp/Burton combo, including quirky characters, lavish costumes, and ghoulish makeup for Burton’s favorite performer, it finds itself burdened with too many characters and too few ideas. Dark Shadows struggles to establish any real sense of identity, meandering along until a preposterous climax that feels every bit as out-of-place in this film as Barnabas Collins feels in 1972.