Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Dark Shadows; another vamp flick?

On Sunday I finally saw Dark Shadows, so I apologise for the tardiness of this review.

Dark Shadows is the latest film from Tim Burton and his inner circle of Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and Danny Elfman.

Barnabas Collins’ (Depp) family travel to Maine from Liverpool when Barnabas is a boy.  They expand their fishing company, build the town (Collinsport) and build their own house overlooking all that they have created (Collinswood).
One of the serving women, who happens to be a witch, in Collinswood falls in love with Barnabas but her affections are not reciprocated and in anger she curses his family.  His one true love flings herself from the cliffs and, unable to live without her, he jumps after her.  He survives the fall and is turned into a vampire.  The witch (Eva Green) turns the townsfolk against him and he is buried in a box for two centuries.
He is freed in 1972 where he finds his enduring family, a replica of his one true love and that the witch, Angie, is still alive, un-aged, and is driving the Collins family business into ruin.  It is up to Barnabas to bring back his family’s honour and break the family curse.

Dark Shadows is based on a television series of which many of the cast were fans.  I have never seen this programme so cannot refer back to it in any way.

I went into the screening of this film expecting to cringe and be disappointed.  I expected the humour to be tackless and the story to be silly based on what I had seen from the trailer.  I was pleasantly surprised.
The writing is superb.  Johnny Depp doesn’t overact his character – what a ridiculous thought, why would he over act?  There is a wonderful 60/70s vibe, as you would expect, and the whole thing has been treated with a great deal of respect.

There is more violence and explicit material than I was expecting.  This film is classified as a 12A and there were children younger than 12 sat in the cinema.  Most seemed to be bored and one girl was even wandering around the seats, out of the way of people, barely glancing up at the screen.  But please be warned if you are considering taking youngsters to see this.

Happily, I enjoy a bit of violence and explicit material.  Equally happily, the man sat next to me did too.  He looked like an aged hippy, taking his daughter to see a film that would remind him of his youth.  He seemed to particularly enjoy the hippy references and I enjoyed the reek of cannabis emanating from him. 

The theme of this film is family and the close bonds between those sharing the name Collins.  Similar to The Addams Family, this gives Dark Shadows its feeling of warmth and love.

As well as being warm, it is also a funny film and it is classic Burton.  Barnabas’ dark hair, eyes and umbrella contrasting with his white skin and the ethereal beauty of the women in his life gave me that lovely familiar Burton feeling of going home.  It was wonderful, also, to see a flawless Michelle Pfeiffer after all this time and the young Chloe Grace Moretz , who shot to fame as the young Hit-girl in Kick Ass, as a moody 70s teen.

There are some great surprises throughout the film which I won’t mention as I wouldn’t want to spoil anything. 

The supernatural element throughout is beautifully done with glimpses of ghosts that left me wanting more.  It is easy to see how this could have been a television series and I did feel that some stories could have been expanded on and I would have enjoyed learning more about certain characters with the freedom that only a television series can give.

I loved this film and I watched it eagerly (although that may have been stale passive cannabis smoke).  However, the end of the film disappointed me.  It reaches a climax that had me wide eyed and smiling stupidly at the screen and then descended into Twilightesque moments of cringe.  I wonder if the television series ended in this way?

Dark Shadows is a mixture of Burton beauty, Death Becomes Her and The Addams Family and it will certainly be added to my Tim Burton collection when it is released on DVD.

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