Two hundred years after being shackled inside a coffin that's buried underground, Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) is inadvertently cut loose and set free. The year is 1972 on a balmy October night, and the reluctant vampire is consumed by two decades of thirst. After feasting on the hapless construction workers, Barnabas finds his way to Collinwood, a palatial home he saw rise from the earth when as a little boy, his adventurous family began a new prosperous life from dank and urine-stenched Liverpool to a bright and flourishing town in Maine.
A WITCH'S CURSE
Their halcyon existence allowed them to build the town of Collinsport which has since thrived in the fishing industry that the Collins jumpstarted. But a vengeful, albeit spurned witch Angelique (Eva Green) wrecked havoc on Barnabas' family, murdering his parents and casting a spell on the beautiful Jossette (Bella Heathcote), Barnabas' object of desire, to jump off a cliff. Jossette, in Angelique's eyes, took young Barnabas' affections from her thus she deserved to die. Moreover, she cursed the handsome young man to become a vampire.
But present day Collinsport has changed since Barnabas' "detention". The terrain (he's never seen a concrete road before) has changed and he is continually hounded by Mephistopheles (the devil) decked in gigantic yellow light (the "M" in McDonald's stores). Moreover, Collinwood is in a state of disrepair, rambling into destitution. The Collins have likewise lost their fortunes. Only four of them have survived: Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer), the matriarch; her belligerent daughter Carolyn (Chloe Grace Moretz); Roger (Jonny Lee Miller), Elizabeth's incorrigible brother and his son David (Gulliver McGrath) who everyone perceives as looney (he thinks his dead mother still intermittently communicates with him). Then there's psychiatrist Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter) who has overstayed her doctor's visit for the last 3 years! She attends to David's mental health.
After convincing Elizabeth that he indeed was the "living" incarnation of their ancestor, Barnabas gave his word that he would never harm any member of this family. Furthermore, he would rebuild Collinwood's past glories. In fact, he unearthed a room brimming with jewelries and gold; riches that have eluded the clan for two centuries!
Unfortunately, Barnabas' ambitious plans couldn't go unimpeded, could it? Angelique, the witch, has taken over the dominion of the fishing town (calling her fish processing company as Angelbay). And she would not allow the resurgence of the Collins! Unless Barnabas accedes to a romantic ever after with her. After all these years, Angelique is still madly in love with "that man with handsome features". But her malevolent nature won't allow him romantic happiness outside her embrace! "I'd rather see him suffer or die..." Angie promised!
One day, a beautiful young woman named Victoria offers her services as a nanny! She has come a long way and seems content to be part of the family. But her uncanny likeness to the downfallen Jossette isn't lost in Barnabas. And the reluctant vampire once again falls in love. Surely, Angelique won't have any of these!
What becomes of the Collins? Will Barnabas be able to rebuild the family fortunes from dire straits? Why is the overstaying doctor transfusing blood on Barnabas who's desperate enough to try the former's experiments (he was told that this could restore his humanity)? Who is Victoria? Will Collinsport embrace the family that built the town? Will they ever find the beast attacking locals to their death? Finally, what is a vampire's place in a new age where "little women" (Karen Carpenter) sing "Top of the World" in small boxes (television)?
Johnny Depp once again creates another delightfully preternatural character in the lovesick Barnabas Collins. His circumscribed delivery is key to making his character enthralling, which should be a formidable thespic hurdle considering Barnabas thrives on innocent beings for their blood. But it is easy to fawn over someone who's utterly devoted to his family, and more so, with a girl who so enamored him! When he tells Angie off, "How dare you put your cursed lips on mine!" I couldn't help but giggle! Giggle - and I am not 16! When the Collins invites heavy metal legend Alice Cooper to perform for their soiree, Barnabas quips, "I've never seen such an ugly woman!" (He thought with a name like Alice, the rocker couldn't be a man!) :)
Aside from Depp, the cast is as hopelessly engaging. Michelle Pfeiffer deliciously commits to the feisty matriarch who would protect her family against usurpers. She returns to the spotlight in grand fashion! So does Eva Green as the vengeful Angelique who is so malevolently bloodcurdling as she is sexy! Helena Bonham Carter promises another character envisaged like a predetermined anti-hero for a calculated sequel - and this we cannot wait!
There are blatantly weak links in the plot, most of them figure as spoilers so I am not going to get into them, but this involves character development that somehow unravels at the latter part of the film: Carolyn, for example, turns into something else and I thought there was only "one monster in the family". Roger Collins, on the other hand, evolves into a cad just when the family has found their riches. Why leave when luxury is all you're after - and your family has obviously found a huge stash. Even Dr. Hoffman's character is superficially glazed over. Her extended stay does not make sense even as a comedic strain. Having enumerated just a few of these narrative lapses, "Dark Shadows" is nevertheless entertaining.
Horror and comedy aren't an easy hybrid simply because fear and laughter don't congeal comfortably beside each other like hands in glove. You don't shriek with fear then laugh in the same breath! It isn't physiologic! Gaiety is in fact the anti-thesis of anxiety and discomposure. But Director Tim Burton succeeds where others failed, thanks to a brilliant cast, a resplendent cinematography, an understated humor and a brisk narrative that never lingers unnecessarily. On IMAX, the film embraces extensively, thus the audience becomes part of Barnabas' journey to restore his broken family!
During the screening, a heart-pounding, nail-biting "complete" sequence of the next "Dark Knight" sequel was shown, involving Bane, Batman's next cinematic nemesis (wasn't he notorious for being the guy who "killed" Batman?) It involved an action-packed sequence set in mid-air where a plane gets hijacked. Every second felt urgent and by the time this particular sequence ended, people started clapping! Yes, this wasn't a trailer, but a full-15-minute portion of the incoming summer flick. If they wanted to hook their viewers, they sure succeeded! Now where do I buy the ticket? :)
|Elizabeth and family.|
|Dr. Hoffman (Carter, right) wants to look young forever so she transfuses a vampire's blood in her.|
|Barnabas tries convincing Elizabeth that he is the real deal.|
|Angelique was the Collins' maid in 1752. She fell in love with a playful Barnabas.|
|Angelique crashes the Collins' party.|
|Johnny Depp takes on another quirky character.|
|Michelle Pfeiffer - Catwoman is back sans costume!|
|Eva Green is malevolent!|
|Bella Heathcote as Victoria has a dark past that might be unraveled further in a sequel.|
|Jonny Lee Miller plays the spineless Roger Collins.|
|Jonny Lee Miller - Angelina Jolie sure knew how to pick boyfriends back then! :)|