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WGUC Reviews

Dark Shadows

Dark Shadows
GK Films
Rated PG-13
Now Showing at: most major theaters.
Review by: Larry Thomas

Sometimes you may see a movie trailer and think…not sure I want to see that. Then you may hear a few negative comments which reinforce that thought. But, for whatever reason, you go see the movie and, surprise, you like it. Well that just happened to me with the new Tim Burton film, Dark Shadows. Based on a gothic afternoon soap opera on television in the 1960s, Dark Shadows was a mammoth hit with a cult following. It spawned two feature films in the early seventies, and made a vampire sex symbol of Jonathan Frid. I remember watching the show for a time during its first run and rather liking it. But I was not a rabid fan. It was very gothic and serious, to the best of my recollection.

Fast forward to present day and Tim Burton, joining with his favorite star Johnny Depp, decides to resurrect Dark Shadows…so to speak. Like the TV show, it’s full of sinister characters, but in the movie, some of them are quite funny.

Depp plays Barnabas Collins, who’s turned into a vampire by a vengeful witch, who then has him entombed where he lay for almost two centuries. Uncovered by a construction crew in 1972, Barnabas lays waste to the whole crew because, after two centuries, he’s incredibly thirsty. Returning to Colllinwood, Maine, he seeks out his ancestors who still live in Collinwood Mansion. The plot gets a little complicated, but always tongue-in-cheek, with a variety of terrific performances. Besides Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer turns up as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard. She’s terrific, and really should be doing more movies these days. One of the remaining servants in the mansion is a grizzled Jackie Earle Haley, playing as if he’s channeling Adam Sandlers demented grandfather. He steals scenes and makes the most of them. The superstar-in-waiting, Chloe Grace-Moretz, who was so good in Hugo, is Pfeiffer’s precocious daughter, while Jonny Lee Miller plays her father. And let’s not forget voluptuous Eva Green, from the James Bond Casino Royale, as a 400 year old witch who’s played a major part in the downfall of the Collins family fortunes. Burton’s muse and companion Helena Bonham Carter is along to play a psychiatrist who works with the Stoddard son, who has his, shall we say, problems.

The art direction and set decoration are Oscar-worthy. Danny Elfman’s score is up to his highest standards. And since the film is set in 1972, it makes the best use of seventies music since Reservoir Dogs.

There’s more than a fair share of romance, pathos, satire, and laugh-out-loud funny business. While there are those who may feel this version of the TV series takes too many liberties with the source material, I was was totally happy with Burton’s take on the Collins’ family tale. It’s part Beetlejuice, a bit of Alice in Wonderland, with a pinch of the Addams Family thrown in, and pretty much skewers the serious pretentiousness of the recent spate of cinematic vampirism, spurred to the forefront by the Twilight series.

With a nod to nostalgia Burton also has Jonathan Frid, along with TV cast mates Lara Parker, Katherine Leigh Scott and David Selby, doing cameos as party guests. Unfortunately, Frid died less than a month before the film’s release.

If you have any doubts about Dark Shadows, give it a chance. Like me, you just might be pleasantly surprised.

The PG-13 rated Dark Shadows is now biting necks in most cineplexes.


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