MOVIE REVIEW: Dark Shadows

Director: Tim Burton
Starring: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Eva Green, Chloe Grace Moretz, Bella Heathcote, Helena Bonham Carter
Rated: M

I am no movie critic, I am no movie buff, I am someone who loves to watch a good movie and I know what I like. I don’t intend to try and pretend that I understand all of the who’s who and how it all works but I went to see a movie today and I thought I would come and tell you my experience of it.

I have been extremely eagerly anticipating all of the stars aligning for me to actually get in to the cinema to watch Dark Shadows and today was finally the day. Ever since the movie opened I have been hearing mixed reviews which, rather than putting me off, has only increased my desire to see it. I made sure I went in with no expectations which I actually found easier due to the mixed reviews, it was one that could go either way and I wasn’t going to judge before I got there.

The movie is based on a gothic soap opera from the 1970’s of the same name. I have no experience of the show so can’t make a comparison, but I have read that this is nothing like the original.

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Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins, I loved him. I think he pulled off the strait-laced, serious 18th century gentleman quite well and  he can pull off a monotonal voice beautifully while expressing his emotions through very simple facial expressions. The hair and makeup were really good for transforming him into Barnabas and leaving very little Johnny to admire, apart from the facial structure which would be very difficult to miss.

There are some questions that I am left with which plagued me from early in the movie but putting those aside I enjoyed this movie for what it was, a fun tribute to a 70’s gothic soap opera but I found this movie to be very much more of the 70’s gothic fun, than the soap opera and very light on the horror.

The Collins mansion is big  and dark and beginning to shows its age. In its time it was an extravagant display of wealth with everything the absolute best, the most expensive and way more than was ever necessary. In the beginning it is majestic as it stands atop the hill overlooking Collinsport – the town built around the Collins family business.

The opening scenes see us meet Barnabas the child leaving his home in Liverpool with his family for a new start in America. There they build a thriving fishing business and become extravagantly wealthy.

Barnabas is the Collins heir, a young man who feels it is his right to do what he wishes, with whom he wishes and that’s where the trouble begins. He is fooling around with one of the servants, who is in love with him, and when he turns his nose up at her proffered heart she proves the old saying that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

It turns out that Barnabas scorned the wrong servant, this one was a witch who cursed Barnabas to eternal life as a vampire and then had him chased down by an angry mob and buried alive. Almost 2 centuries later he is unearthed and that’s where the fun really begins.

The 1970’s mansion is run down and beginning to show it’s age, a sign of the slow decline of the Collins family.

All of the colours are very grey and washed out, dark and creepy. Except for Dr Huffman with her bright orange hair and green eye shadow, and Caroline’s room. They really bring the 70’s to the mansion.

I think all of the actors played their parts extremely well, the ending was a little predictable but left me wanting more – I want to know what’s next.

The horror for the most part was suggested more than graphic. On his awakening Barnabas massacred 11 men. It took all of 30 seconds and there were bodies, Barnabas was splattered with quite a bit of blood but the actual scene showed a hand come from nowhere to snatch the body and then discard it. Only a couple of times did you actually see the vampire fangs at work.

There were some quite amusing one liners which made me giggle and the mistaking of McDonalds for Mephistopheles I found hilarious.

One thing I almost forgot to mention was that one of my favourite musicians also makes an appearance, and I didn’t know he was going to be there. At the ‘happening’ Barnabas throws Caroline suggests the need for Alice Cooper and Barnabas delivers with a performance by the king of shock rock looking very 70’s – healthier than he did in the 70’s though.

Dark Shadows is very Tim Burton and very quirky Johnny Depp. It was dark, amusing and I think showed the contrasts well. I did find there were some unexpected twists which is always a good thing. Definitely a movie I would watch again, and I look forward to adding it to my DVD collection.

4 / 5 stars

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