11 May 2012
Comedy | Fantasy
Vrykolakas. Strigoi. Nosferatu. Vampire. These mythological creatures have haunted our nightmares for centuries, inspiring stories of midnight horror at the thought of having our blood drained by monsters with long fangs. This creepy idea was the basis for the 1966 ABC soap opera “Dark Shadows” where a vampire comes back to life in the 20th century to meet his descendants. Almost fifty years later, Warner Brothers has taken this idea into a full length movie starring Johnny Depp (Ed Wood, Rango) and directed by Tim Burton (Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands ).
We open in 1760 America, still an English colony. Depp plays Barnabas Collins, a young socialite with wealthy parents and a good life ahead of him, until they are killed in an accident. As Barnabas grows to manhood he falls for a girl, but another woman has fallen deeply for him: Angelique, played by Eva Green (The Dreamers, Casino Royale) the kitchen maid who uses witchcraft to attract his lust. However he resists, and Angelique kills his bride by luring her over the side of a cliff. He dives after her, but surprisingly does not die. Instead, he becomes a hideous vampire with long teeth and razor sharp nails. Angelique then gets the local townspeople to abduct and imprison him in a coffin deep in the woods where no one will find him until…
1972. A construction crew is digging trenches at night when they hit something hard. An old casket, bound in chains, is uprooted but that was a very bad idea for them. As Barnabas emerges after 200 years, he’s a little thirsty. Then after a midnight snack, he makes his way back home to Collinwood Manor, now a bit of a dump. He also meets his estranged family: the matriarch Elizabeth played by Michelle Pfeiffer (The Fabulous Baker Boys, Batman Returns), the cooky groundskeeper Willie played by Jackie Earle Haley (Little Children, Shutter Island), the stubborn teenager Carolyn played by Chloë Grace Moretz (Let Me In, Hugo), the new beautiful governess Victoria played by Bella Heathcote (TV’s Neighbours, In Time), and the family psychiatrist Dr. Julia Hoffman played by Helena Bonham Carter (Corpse Bride, The King’s Speech). Barnabas is not pleased, and announces that he plans to restore the family dynasty again. There’s only one problem: Angelique. She’s still alive and a rival in the Collins’ seafood business. It’s up to Barnabas to face his inner demons and save the day, er night.
Warner Brothers placed a lot of faith in this project: $150 million of faith. It is produced by the same team that gave us prior Burton films “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” and “Alice in Wonderland”, thus the visuals are amazing to look at. However, with Depp himself as a producer himself, you feel as though he took over the movie and Burton is just along for the ride. Only some of the jokes are really funny, and the leaden pace of the story may make you reach for more popcorn. Despite following the TV show faithfully, it all comes together too fast, too condensed. An oh yeah, we have a cameo performance from Alice Cooper.
“Dark Shadows” had potential to become something really great, but this vampire epic is just too anemic.