Dark Shadows: A Review
Posted on the 01 June 2012 by Briennewalsh
Dark Shadows: A Review
As the credits started rolling at the end of Dark Shadows (2012), Caleb turned to me, and said: “How could they waste so much money on something like this, and get away with it?”
We had gone to see the movie as a bookend to our Memorial Day weekend, which had basically been a celebration of the newfound freedom afforded to us by our Jeep.
From a wine bar in Ditmas Park…
to the Ice House in Red Hook…
from the most opulent part of the Jersey Shore…
to the groomed wastelands of Staten Island…
back over the majestic expanse of the Verrazano Bridge…
to my parent’s house in Westchester, where Franke almost gotten eaten by a coyote…
…we had driven, windows down, music blasting, my feet on the dashboard, Caleb’s hands on the wheel.
On Monday night, I was so soaked with visual information that I became exhausted, a dog who had spent too much time with her head out of the window of a moving vehicle. I could barely drag myself off the Battleship to make it to the theater, but I did, all the while threatening that I would fall asleep as soon as the movie started.
Dark Shadows, directed by Tim Burton, is based on a gothic soap opera that aired on ABC from 1965 to 1971. The television show was enormously popular, and is often credited with the origination of the “vampire” as a sexy beast.
In the film, the vampire, Barnabas Collins, is played by Johnny Depp, in much the same manner that he has played all of his other sexy weirdos—Edward Scissorhands, the Mad Hatter, and Sweeney Todd, to name the first to come to my head. Johnny Deep, as far as I’m concerned, has absolutely no depth as an actor, and he’s not even that hot. I would rather fuck a fat man not wearing white face make-up, than I would Johnny Depp dressed up as a character in a movie, any day.
Barnabas Collins was the son of Joshua and Naomi Collins, fishing magnates who moved to Maine in 1770, where they established the town of Collinsport. There, they built a mansion that looks like a cheap Harry Potter set, which they believe to be the most beautiful building in the world.
Barnabas is something of a cad. He sleeps with a maid named Angelique, played by Eva Green, only to abandon her when he falls in love with the beautiful, innocent, and dull Josette Du Pres, played by the surprisingly enchanting Bella Heathcote.
The spurned Angelique, who turns out to be a powerful witch, casts a spell on Josette, forcing her to jump off a cliff. Barnabas jumps off after her, only to wake up on a rock, his body covered in salt water, his face covered in blood. Dun dun dun. He has been transformed into a vampire.
Angelique somehow gets the townspeople to put Barnabas in a coffin wrapped in silver chains, where he stays for 200 years, until a crew of workmen dig him up.
After eating the entire clan, he returns to his familial home, where he finds his distant cousin, played by Michelle Pfeiffer, trying to raise her daughter, played by Hayden Panettierre Chlöe Moretz, and her nephew, played by Billy Elliot.
In the house with them lives her brother, played by Angelina’s first husband Johnny Lee Miller, a psychiatrist, played by the everly same Helena Bonham Carter, who sports a bright orange wig, and Maggie, a governess who is the reincarnation of Josette, Barnabus’ one true love.
The family—and it’s fortunes—are in complete disarray. The year is 1970, and their fortunes have been decimated by Angelique, now sporting a blonde weave, who has taken over the fishing business in town.
The house they live in is haunted in a not-scary, Casper kind of way, with ghosts that float around the chandeliers in the main room, speaking to family members with paranormal abilities.
Those of you who love vampires may be dismayed by the range of Barnabas’ skills. He is nothing more than a watered down version of Bill Compton, plus lots of weirdness, and an affinity for speaking in a formal British accent.
His affectations are meant to be cute, but they often come off as forced, the screenplay so obviously edited so that the voice is gone. Nothing is left for Barnabas to do but deliver the lines, and wait for the audience to react.
Many adventures ensue nonetheless, all under a gorgeous track of rock and roll hits from the 1970s. That, along with the visual stimulation of the film itself, which was characteristically Tim Burtonly fantastic, was enough to keep me awake.
Many academics and cultural critics are saying that the prime spot for nostalgia is 40 years in the past. Think Mad Men, mid-century modern furniture, and Banana Republic garden dresses in 2010. If they are right, then a film like Dark Shadows, set in 1970, is a harbinger of things to come.
Soon, we’ll move on from rolling bar carts, beehives, and pop art to Volkswagon vans, long, unfettered hair, and Gordon Matta Clark (wish), leaving the do-gooder Kennedy era for experimental drugs, polyester shirts, and wild partying.
In that way alone, Dark Shadows is an interesting movie. It arouses a certain kind of fascination in the era that my parents grew up in, about which I know very little. I’m getting older, and as I do, I’ll look back farther, to where my origins are, twelve years before I was born.
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