In 1752, When Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) rejects the amorous advances of Angelique (Eva Green), she - secretly a witch - throws his true love Josette (Bella Heathcote) over a cliff and turns him into a vampire and locks him in a funeral casket which is buried and chained. Nearly two centuries later in 1972, workmen digging in the area - near the Collins American ancestral home (built after they migrated) - discover and release a by now very (blood)thirsty Barnabas. The Collins family is almost broke and their fishing business a skeleton of its former self, which Barnaby intends to rectify so he is more or less welcomed by the family - Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer), her brother Roger (Johnny Lee Miller), her teenage daughter Carolyn (ChloŽ Grace Moretz) and Roger's 10 year old son, David (Gulliver McGrath). He is surprised to meet their live-in psychiatrist, Dr Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Crater) but he is positively stunned when he meets their new nanny, Victoria (Bella Heathcote), who reminds him so desperately of his beloved Josette. And not far away is his old nemesis; hell hath no fury like Angelique scorned ... twice.
Review by Louise Keller:
Highlight is the wild seduction scene between Johnny Depp and the voluptuous, scene stealing Eva Green, who slinks from her shiny red Chevy convertible to leap on her man with pent up passion. Glasses smash, long talons shred furniture and the walls become their boudoir as they roll every which way - witch being the operative word. There's even a post coitus cigarette, when the previously enthusiastic Depp ruefully declares 'That was a regrettable turn of events'. It's the over-the-top moments of high drama and theatrics that work best in this Tim Burton spectacle of ghoulish, vampiric fantasy, when everyone and everything let loose in an onslaught of excess. While the film might occasionally smack of self-indulgence and would benefit by a nip and a tuck in the editing room, there are enough bizarre ideas and eccentricity to deliver the expected Burton/Depp package.
Based on Dan Curtis' 60s/70s television series of the same name, Depp is ideally cast as Barnabas Collins from Liverpool, whose family makes its fortune in 18th century Collinsport, Maine. But family is the only real wealth, Barnabas tells us before we witness first hand how he is cursed by black magic by the spurned Angelique Bouchard (Green), and is destined to live the eternal, tortured life of a vampire. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned - especially if she happens to be a witch. Magic, fate and destiny conspire for Barnabas' return a couple of centuries later, just as Victoria (Bella Heathcote), the spitting image of his true love Josette DuPres, happens to arrive at Collinsport Manor to be governess to young David (Gulliver McGrath).
Collinsport Manor is a bit like the Addams Family dilapidated home, complete with cobwebs and eccentric manservant Willie Loomis (Jackie Earle Haley). The dysfunctional family is equally strange. Michelle Pfeiffer is Elizabeth, the long-lashed lady of the house, whose teenage daughter Carolyn Stoddard (ChloŽ Grace Moretz) is considered a looney, while her nephew David sees ghosts as he wanders around wearing a sheet. Unsurprisingly, there's a live-in shrink, wonderfully played by Helena Bonham Carter, with a shock of bright red hair and a fear of ageing. It is 1972: the Carpenters are singing, flower power is in full swing, Love Story is a best seller and there are bean bags and lava lamps strewn around the manor, a sharp contrast to the crystal chandelier, the ancient family portraits, secret passages and intricate carvings.
Things get a whole lot better when shapely Green arrives on the scenes, with platinum hair, bright red lips, a tiny waist and a whole lot of sassitude. The scenes between Green and Depp are the film's best, Depp ghoulish with black hair, dark rings, long pointy talons and lashings of blood around his lips. The plot may revolve around business, but it is really all about love as Burton lays it on with wild theatricals and a throng of special effects to take us to the film's chaotic conclusion. It doesn't quite soar, but there is fire among the shadows.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
At its heart, Dark Shadows is about a woman who would rather try to destroy the man she wants than let anyone else have him, a tale not uncommon in literature or film. But this old classic is dressed in the robes of a gothic fairy tale spanning two centuries, in which the man is cursed by his stalker, who turns out to be a witch. If this sounds familiar to you, get the hell out now!
Tim Burton's sublime wit is missing here, but the film is drenched in Danny Elfman's 'old' Hollywood score, big enough to sweep all before it, including the debris of a broken tone. The clownish vampire with a Napoleonic hairdo and blood dripping from his chin is a great vehicle for the chameleon Johnny Depp, but the sort of fun we had with the Addams Family is also missing. Never sure whether to make us laugh or give us a dose of melodrama, Burton and his script writer Seth Grahame-Smith alternate between farce and TV sitcom modes.
Matching Elfman's score is Rick Heinrichs' fantabulous production design, which overcomes its derivativeness by sheer enthusiasm and detail. Everything looks great, even if it doesn't always work as intended, like fight scenes between Barnabas and Angelique, and other moments I won't divulge.
It's a pleasure to see Michelle Pfeiffer again, an authoritative as well as decorative presence (yes, even now) and there is a loving cameo from Christopher Lee as an elder of the fishing community in Maine. Eva Green is gorgeously wicked in blazing red lipstick and either black or red dress, seductive one scene, deadly the next.
ChloŽ Grace Moretz is pouty and fiery as the teenager (with a surprise revelation) and Bella Heathcote is cute as the innocent young woman who steals Barnabas' eternally beating heart.
There is a great sense of dynamic action alongside the offbeat visual humour of a Johnny Depp (sometimes wearing extra-protective sunnies and a hat, echoes of Michael Jackson) but as we never seriously believe in any of the elements, it just seems like a drawn out novelty show, however large the big screen and score make it look.
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DARK SHADOWS (M)
CAST: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Eva Green, Johnny Lee Miller, ChloŽ Grace Moretz, Gulliver McGrath, Helena Bonham Carter, Jackie Earle Hayley, Bella Heathcote, Christopher Lee
PRODUCER: Johnny Depp, Christi Dembrowski, David Kennedy, Graham King, Richard D. Zanuck
DIRECTOR: Tim Burton
SCRIPT: Seth Grahame-Smith (TV series Dan Curtis)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Bruno Delbonnel
EDITOR: Chris Lebenzon
MUSIC: Danny Elfman
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Rick Heinrichs
RUNNING TIME: 113 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 10, 2012