Back in January, I hailed Dark Shadows as one of my most anticipated movies of the year. Starring Johnny Depp *swoon*, Christopher Lee, Eva Green *swoon*, Michelle Pfeiffer and, surprise, surprise, Helena Bonham Carter. I waited with baited breath until the film finally hit our screens on 11 May.
Based on the cult television show, Depp revamps (how could I not?!) the beloved character of Barnabas Collins, a vampire who has been buried for the past 200 years, whilst the stunning Eva Green plays his jilted lover Angelique. Set in 1700s and then later in the 1970s, this gothic-horror explores Barnabas’ relationships with mythical creatures from witches to werewolves after he is accidentally freed from the tomb that has trapped him for two centuries (blame Angelique). The 1700s Barnabas is a handsome playboy who has inadvertently caused Angelique to fall in love him, but he is only interested in Josette, played by Bella Heathcote. We soon discover there’s more than meets the eye with Angelique when the buxom witch casts a spell on Josette, causing her to commit suicide and turns Barnabas into a vampire before hunting him down with a mob of angry townsfolk and burying him ‘alive’.
With a stroke of luck, a group of workmen accidentally free Barnabas some two hundred years later and he finds himself living it up in the Seventies. Now, I don’t know about you, but if I was buried alive and then bumped into the person who put me there after I was freed, revenge would be the only thing on my mind. Not for our Barnabas though, he just wants to move back into the family home and rebuild the family fishing business that has been run into the ground in his absence.
We are introduced to the modern day Collins family, held together by Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer) and her husband (Johnny Lee Miller). Chloe Moretz plays their eldest child, Carolyn, a teen hippie with a chip on her shoulder and Gulliver McGrath is David, their deeply troubled son. Dr Hoffman, the boy’s shrink, is played by the wonderfully mad Helena Bonham Carter, whilst a new addition to the family in the form of governess Victoria (also played by Bella Heathcote) ensures that things get interesting when Barnabas realises her striking resemble to his lost love. However, things aren’t all rosy when it becomes apparent that Angelique is still in Collinsport and not only has she wiped the floor with the Collins’ business in favour of her own empire, but she’s still got it wicked bad for Barnabus. Gulp.
Of course, given those involved, this is visually an incredible movie. The styling is on point and the casting superb, but somehow it just isn’t quite there. From what promised to be a dark comedy, we saw very few laughs. The humour, whilst at times subtle and brilliant and other times silly but fun (“Reveal yourself, tiny songstress!”), was often cheesy – for example, there is one particular scene where Barnabas gives into Angelique’s seductions and Barry White starts playing…. Even more puzzling is the fact that it is still a really hot scene even with the soundtrack, but then again this is Johnny Depp and Eva Green we are talking about here. That’s not to say the film wasn’t at all amusing, but it definitely wasn’t a strict comedy. Equally, it wasn’t a horror film, even though there are some scenes very typical of a good ol’ vintage horror flicks. It has the potential to be a romance, but then it isn’t really that either.
The really confusing thing about this movie, however, is the plot. The premise is great, but the focus on this whole fish business rivalry is just absurd and unfortunately that is what the majority of the film concerns itself with. However, in the final 20 or so minutes, Burton really brings it back with a fantastic show down between our two leads and a couple of little twists thrown in for good measure (and I suppose the promise of a sequel). All in all, a visually stunning film with a great cast, some amusing scenes, but sadly a plot that just isn’t strong enough or gripping enough to keep an audience’s attention for a run time of two hours.