Ghoulish tale a hearty romp
Dark Shadows Starring Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Eva Green, Jackie Earl Haley, Jonny Lee Miller, Bella Heathcote, Chloe Grace Moretz, Gulliver Mcgrath. 113 minutes, rated M (horror, violence, offensive language, drug use). Showing at Reading Cinemas Porirua. I like my movie vampires how I like my rock stars: fashionable and crestfallen.
Weepy teens with teething problems, tongue- in- cheek pretenders and undead action heroes – stick a stake in all of them.
Just leave me with Gary Oldman as Dracula and the original The Lost Boys.
My blood-sucking sensibilities should dictate a mild loathing for Barnabas Collins, a pompous, theatrical nosferatu with a penchant for capes and hats only Michael Jackson could have considered stylish.
However, I found both he and this weird mash-up of monsters, family melodrama and 1970s nostalgia curiously irresistible.
Based on a cult US television series most Kiwis have probably never seen or heard of, Dark Shadows concerns the second coming of Barnabas ( Johnny Depp), an 18th century vampire who is freed from his coffin cell in 1972.
Times have changed. He finds his family estate and reputation in ruins, his descendants dysfunctional, and the town under the control of the very witch (Eva Green) who had killed both his parents and beau, and turned him into a vampire.
Refreshingly, Barnabas makes no apology for needing to suck the life out of innocent townsfolk. He’s a monster, deal with it.
Perversely, his principles are intact when it comes to protecting his family and their reputation – and there’s some work to be done.
Family matriarch Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer) is struggling under the weight of debt and unruly teenage daughter Carolyn (Chloe Grace Moretz). Roger Collins (Jonny Lee Miller) is a lazy wretch, who has little time or affection for son David (Gulliver Mcgrath), who in turn is seeing a shrink (Helena Bonham Carter) because he sees dead people.
Meanwhile, Victoria – the new governess – has her own dark secrets, and bears an uncanny resemblance to Barnabas’ true love from two centuries before.
Dark Shadows is a welcome return to the gothic suburbia Burton conceived in Beetlejuice and perfected in Edward Scissorhands. In story and in tone it is the director’s most surreal picture in many a moon.
Burton’s gradual ease into the multiplex mainstream over the past 15 years has maintained an affection for outsider characters and dark, dramatic set design, but the movies, from Sleepy Hollow to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland, have become perfunctory.
All have been entertaining examples of style and storytelling, but none – bar The Corpse Bride – ever threatened to move me like Scissorhands or Ed Wood.
Dark Shadows is far from perfect.
It tries to involve way too many story threads when it should have kept its focus on Barnabas, Victoria, and Angelique, the witch. And the dark, often dorky humour – including the unlikely use of The Carpenters and other soft 70s pop on the soundtrack – won’t be for everyone.
But at its best and strangest, Dark Shadows is a sweet, demented love letter to Burton’s early years and most successful collaborations with his favourite leading man – who does a fine job channelling Bela Lugosi and the monster from Nosferatu (1922).
Crammed in: Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) seeks a quiet moment in Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows. The movie is guilty of trying to juggle too many characters and plot threads, but it is the most fun and surprising movie the visionary director has made since the mid-1990s.