The movie world seemed to be all abuzz recently over The Avengers. I was more interested in another release—Dark Shadows, directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp. This is their eighth collaboration, and if you’re looking for something new, well…better find another movie. But if you want another ridiculous, campy, shadowy Tim Burton/Johnny Depp movie, you’re in luck.
The story is about Barnabas Collins, and the Hell-fury of a woman scorned. Barnabas makes the mistake of scorning a witch, who kills his parents, kills his true love, turns Barnabas into a vampire, has him buried alive, and spends the next two hundred years trying to destroy the Collins family fishing business. When Barnabas is finally dug up in 1972, he finds that the family has dwindled to just a few destitute members, though they have hung on to Collinswood, the enormous manor house. Uncle Barnabas resolves to restore the family fortune, while casting an interested eye on the new governess and sparring with the evil witch.
There is blood. There is ridiculous make-up. There’s Helena Bonham Carter, as usual upstaged by her hair (bright orange this time), and Christopher Lee in a small role. There are bizarre plot turns, a shadowy gothic atmosphere, and a lot of laughs. In other words, it’s the usual fare for Johnny Depp and Tim Burton.
I have no familiarity with the original Dark Shadows, so I really can’t comment at all on how this compares. I could feel the soap opera origins at times. I can easily imagine how certain plot twists and character revelations, which happen in five minutes here, would have furnished three weeks of plotline, soap opera style. The movie doesn’t feel rushed, though—just wild and unpredictable.
The best part of the movie for me was watching Barnabas try to adjust to the world of 1972. He’s blown away by a lava lamp, doesn’t know what to make of a paved road, and attacks a television trying to figure out how the tiny songstress is inside. In one of my favorite moments, he mistakes the arches of a McDonalds for the sign of Mephistopheles over the gates of Hell (kind of apt, actually). He has a wonderful conversation with a group of hippies about wooing women (the hippies impart great wisdom, such as that modern girls don’t care about sheep). Johnny delivers endless completely absurd lines, and manages a straight face through the whole movie. I really hope this DVD has a blooper reel!
This is not a deep movie. If there’s a moral, I don’t know what it is (other than, possibly, don’t make a witch angry). If it’s about any important issues, I don’t know which ones. But it is full of dark, shadowy, slightly creepy fun.
You know, just like Johnny Depp and Tim Burton’s other seven films.