Starring Johnny Depp,
Helena Bonham Carter,
Jackie Earle Haley,
Jonny Lee Miller,
Chloe Grace Moretz,
Directed by Tim Burton
Written by Seth Grahame-Smith
From a story by Seth Grahame-Smith and John August
Based on characters created by Dan Curtis
Running time 113 mins.
Gothic atmosphere and groovy laughs mark this Tim Burton masterpiece.
Based on the soap opera from the late-60s and early-70s, Dark Shadows stars Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins, a rich fellow from the 1700s turned into a vampire by a witch (Green). When his chained coffin is unearthed after nearly two hundred years, Barnabas shows up at the Collinwood estate, settles in with his bored rich descendants, and finds the witch is still around.
For such a Tim Burton film, there is a wild departure in its look from most of Burton’s work. It’s richer, more real. Danny Elfman does the music, but it doesn’t sound like Danny Elfman music in a Tim Burton movie at all. The short bit of music that opened the TV show with the waves crashing was, I think, the best part of Dark Shadows. Yet even without that specific piece of music, the film satisfies.
As a non-shiny vampire movie without garlic, crucifixes, or stakes through the heart, the lava lamp-Gothicism of Dark Shadows uniquely intrigues.
At the heart of the movie, patriarchy meets matriarchy. How, if at all, the power dynamics ultimately unravel is open to interpretation, but it’s the issue that governs most of the scenes, and will come as no surprise to anyone who has ever seen a Burton film.
The tone throughout is very much in keeping with the first story in the movie Creepshow, the one with the lazy rich jerks. As the matriarch of Collinwood, Michelle Pfeiffer’s patrician façade juts out like her fake eyelashes to perfection. Jackie Earle Haley shines as the derelict servant Willy Loomis, and Chloe Grace Moretz, as the miserable, stridently sarcastic fifteen year-old daughter just about steals the show.
As a comment on vampires, Dark Shadows offers little. That a soap opera vampire carries the torch of authenticity speaks poorly of the competition today. Only Nosferatu in its various forms understands the odious and repellent aspects that give the image of the rich parasite resonance. Dark Shadows shifts the emphasis of odiousness from the monster, where it doesn’t belong, and onto the people, where it does.
Instant cult classic, must-see seasonal viewing, ranks up there with Sleepy Hollow as one of the best Burton-Depp collaborations.