I never got to watch the original Dark Shadows back in the day. I was living in Columbus, Ohio, at the time, and WOSU Channel 34 PBS did not pick it up. If it did, it was most likely on at some hour that seven-year-old schoolgirl would not be watching. As I grew older, and learned of the shows that were getting imported to PBS from across the pond, I took an instant liking to Doctor Who. The Tomorrow People left me confused, and Upstairs, Downstairs did the same, even though my mother really liked it. All through the 80s, when I lived in Central Florida, the gothic geeks raved about this show, but I still never got to see it, and now that I’ve seen this Tim Burton version of it, I know there has to something more that what was on this surface of what could only be a parody of the actual show. I’ve watched my share of British TV shows, and this one was very Americanized for the big screen.
So, here’s how it goes. Back in the 1700s, Barnabas Collins and his family set out from Liverpool to the colonies to set up a fishing business on the New England coast along the Grand Banks area. Maine was part of the colony of Massachusetts then, and through this great harbour, Collinsport, they made their fortune, and built a mansion on the hill to oversee their little fishing empire. Cut to a few years later, when Barnabas (Johnny Depp) is in his teens, and he is suddenly the object of affection for a young maid in the household, Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green). She wants nothing more than to hold Barnabas for her own, but he has his heart set on Josette DuPres (Bella Heathcote). Angelique is a very powerful dark witch, and is now out for revenge against her rival, and puts a spell on Josette to send her to her death by having her jump off a cliff near the house. Barnabas tries to stop her, and goes down with her. Angelique has lost her love as a side affect of her spell, and curses him to be a vampire. She has him locked away in a coffin, and he stays buried outside of Collinsport until a construction crew finds the coffin nearly 200 years later.
I always did like the culture shock effect in movies where a person has been out of the loop for a few decades, like the soldier that has been lost in the jungle still fighting a war that has been over for years, or someone that wakes from a cryogenic sleep. This is the case with Barnabas when he awakens to the world of hard rock, hippies, miniskirts, and psychedelia. The strangest thing of all is that his town has a new name, Angel Bay. He goes to the old family home, and finds it is a bit shabby, but still being held by the Collins family. The business has pretty much dwindled down to nothing. The house that once employed a hundred servants now only has one, Willie Loomis (Jackie Earle Haley). Five people live there now, Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer), Roger Collins (Jonny Lee Miller), Carolyn Stoddard (Chloë Grace Moretz), David Collins (Gully McGrath) and David’s boozy psychiatrist, Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter). There is also a new governess, Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcote), whom is actually the a reincarnation of the doomed Josette.
He loses no time bringing himself up to speed with Elizabeth, whom is the head of the household, and has resources stashed away that will bring the family business back to life. What he does not know is that his old enemy, Angelique, is still alive by means of dark magic and is pretty much running the town. Things move a bit too quickly, and the family seems to have no problem letting this vampire run everything. While they are still at odds in some things, he manages to bring there business back to its former glory, and becomes so popular, he is even able to hire Alice Cooper, at teen Carolyn’s suggestion, to entertain at a grand “happening” at the house to bring them back to society.
While I loved the retro feel of the movie, and it brought lots of great memories with its great soundtrack, much like the movie Xanadu did, it was just too campy and people were to easygoing and ready to accept the supernatural into their lives during the later part of the Space Age. Some characters had hidden supernatural talents that were revealed at the last second, and seemed to not really give anything to the storyline.
While it is not one of the worst movies I’ve seen, it was not really all that good either, and there were some scenes included that were unnecessary, as if they were thrown in to add some more padding and time to the show. Sorry, Barnabas, but you should have stayed buried behind the small screen.
I give this film a Musing review of