Dark Shadows: Vampire overshadows mundane story
Dark Shadows, like its identical twin Sweeney Todd, is a swirlingly dark picture directed by (who else?) Tim Burton and starred by a heavily-made up Johnny Depp. However, unlike its brother, Shadows brings nothing new and exciting enough to make it anything more than an unremarkable love story seasoned with Burton’s familiar (but nonetheless charming) creepy direction.
Based on the 1960s television show of the same name, Dark Shadows follows unfailingly-polite vampire Barnabas Collins (Depp) as he escapes his 212-year confinement and returns to his old mansion in Collinsport. There, he discovers that his descendants have allowed his once beautiful mansion to fall into near-ruin. Barnabas tries to restore the mansion and his parents’ sea food business to their former glory against the wishes of rival businesswoman Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green), who just so happens to be the heartbroken witch who cursed Barnabas two centuries ago. It’s no more Mr. Nice Guy (actually, Girl and/or Witch) when Barnabas refuses to forgive her.
Frankly, I didn’t really get the story. Were it not for the solid cast and Burton’s layer of mysterious icing, the film would be a bland yellow cake that could use another hour or so to finish baking. At its core, Shadows is a tale a dysfunctional family and the rivalry between two fishing businesses. It would have been completely mundane without the presence of a vampire and a witch sprinkled on top.
The love story between Barnabas and Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcote), the climactic point of the story that the audience was supposed to rally behind and make everyone go “aww” when it finally happened, flopped like one of the fish in the Collins’ factory. Winters enters the film five minutes in and leads the cast for several scenes before slipping into background character-hood for the rest of the film. Interaction between the characters was scarce; I can only recall them talking three, maybe four times total. I was confused as to why they seemed so in love with each other. Do they even know each other? They were like Katy Perry/Russell Brand when unfortunately I was looking for a Brangelina.
Though the forgettable story was unarguably the wooden stake to the film’s heart, the acting was very solid, and the movie was very appealing visually. I was pleasantly surprised to see Helena Bonham Carter wander onto the screen, and needless to say she delivered yet another intense, disturbing performance. In retrospect, why didn’t I automatically assume she was on board with this movie? Burton and Depp’s names should have been a dead giveaway.
This film also cemented my position as a Chloe Grace Moretz fan for her role as snarly, sassy 15 year old Carolyn Stoddard. She played my favorite character in Kick Ass and Hugo, and by far my favorite in this film. Maybe that’s because I myself am a sassy 15 year old girl. (Not really, but close.) Either way I loved every scene she was in, and wish she had more. Here’s to hoping she is in many more movies in the future.
Overall, I left the theater mellow and pretty unenthusiastic about the film. Yes, the acting was solid, and yes, Burton’s visuals (the best of which were the foamy ocean shots and Widow’s Peak) were awesome, and of course, the costuming and make up were excellent. But the story was the cement block that pulled the film down to the bottom of the ocean. Should you wake up from your 212 year nap and leave your coffin to see this movie? If the story isn’t the most important part of a movie to you, or if you like Alice Cooper, yes. If not, eh, whatever.