Thursday, May 10, 2012

DARK SHADOWS - Nice Change From Twilight Films

DARK SHADOWS (comedy spoof)
Cast: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Chloe Moretz, Eva Green, Gulliver McGrath, Bella Heathcote, Ray Shirley, Jackie Earle Haley, Jonny Lee Miller, Michelle Pfeiffer and Thomas McDonell
Director: Tim Burton
Screenplay: Seth Grahame-Smith, based on the TV series created by Dan Curtis
Time: 112 mins
Rating:  *  *  * (out of 4)

Bonham Carter, Moretz, Green, Gulliver McGrath, Heathcote, Depp, Jackie Earle Haley, Jonny Lee Miller and Michele Pfeiffer

PREAMBLE: Back in 1966, decades before True Blood and Buffy and Angel, Americans had a supernatural TV series called Dark Shadows. This series, which ran up to 1971, was centred on Barnabas Collins, a 200-year-old vampire played by Jonathan Frid (who died after this movie was filmed). Curiously, this campy series had such an influence on director Tim Burton and Johnny Depp that they decided to make a modern version of it.

The result is this lavish production that has Depp playing Barnabas Collins as a 200-year-old vampire who wakes up in 1972 and is forced to navigate an era of hippies, pot, disco and free love. With its clock set in the Seventies, I suspect the movie will relate better with the older viewers than the youngsters.

Depp and Eva Green at the start of their love tryst

A voice-over prologue relates how the Collins family moved from decadent Liverpool to Maine, in the New World, circa 1795. The family set up a fishing industry in a town named after themselves: Collinwood. Just when the future seemed bright for Barnabas (Depp), a love triangle involving a witch (Eva Green as Angelique), and Barnabas' girlfriend Josette (Bella Heathcote) turned tragic - sending Josette to her watery grave and turning Barnabas into a vampire. Angelique then set the townsfolks on Barnabas who was captured and buried alive.

Fast-forward to 1972 and we find young Victoria Winters (Heathcote again) arriving at Collinwood Mansion to take up a position as governess to David Collins (Gully McGrath), nephew of matriarch Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer). Also staying at the mansion are Elizabeth's brother, Roger (Jonny Lee Miller); her impudent teen daughter, Carolyn (Chloe Grace Moretz) and child psychiatrist Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter). Meanwhile, construction workers unearth Barnabas' coffin and resurrects him...  

HITS & MISSES: Dark Shadows is certainly not among the best of Burton's films and neither is it among Depp's greatest efforts. However, the weird and offbeat Burtonesque ambience and tone are evident and coupled with notable performances by the cast, it is an entertaining effort. The gags that sent our preview audience into laughter and guffaws involve Barnabas' view of the 'modern' world of the Seventies. The vampire is intrigued by lava lamps and the songs of Karen Carpenter, whom he thinks also deals in woodwork. And yes, he also thinks Alice Cooper is the ugliest woman he has ever seen. 

Burton puts the Seventies hit songs to good use, evoking nostalgia and a sense of campiness among the audience. One of the pleasures of watching a Burton movie is seeing Depp in his deadpan, tongue-in-cheek role, setting a jocular mood to the proceedings. His violent love tryst with Eva Green's sexy Angelique is a  highlight of the movie.

Another delight is Chloe Moretz who delivers some of the juiciest lines. Among the flaws are Barnabas' inconsistent reactions to sunlight and other vampire cliches which I prefer to overlook. 

THE LOWDOWN: A mild, escapist fantasy and a nice change from the Twilight flicks.
Depp and Green at the end of their violent love scene


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