Review of tim Burton's Dark Shadows, starring Johnny Depp
"Dark Shadows is a Tim Burton movie without a doubt, and that's a wonderful thing."
Ghost story converges with soap opera, romance and camp comedy in Dark Shadows, the eighth collaboration between filmmaker Tim Burton and leading man Johnny Depp; a wonderful working relationship that goes all the way back to Edward Scissorhands (1990) and includes the classic showbiz tale Ed Wood (1994).
Longtime fans of the '60s ABC daytime soap may not remember Dark Shadows being as silly as Burton's version but the laughs blend enjoyably with the haunted hallways of the sprawling, New England estate called Collinwood. Midway into the clever movie, it's impossible to think of Dark Shadows as anything but a comedy.
The arrival of a new Tim Burton/Johnny Depp reunion is always cause for excitement and Depp is dead on as Barnabas Collins, a gentlemanly vampire who awakens from a two-hundred-year-old curse in 1972 Collinsport, Maine and sets out to find his long-dead love Josette DuPres (Bella Heathcote) and restore the reputation of Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer) and the rest of his cash-strapped Collins descendants. Unfortunately, the witch Angelique (Eva Green), the jealous servant girl who turned him into a vampire long ago, has reinvented herself as a successful businesswoman named Angie and stands in the way of his plans.
Depp looks great as Barnabas with his chalky complexion, chiseled cheekbones and shiny cowlicks of dark hair. He's the dandiest of vampires. More importantly, Depp generates big laughs by playing Barnabas straight on, a miserable man who would do anything to be normal again.
Depp may be the spotlight player in Dark Shadows, but the best performance belongs to Michelle Pfeiffer, combining Waspish chilliness and blue blood eccentricity as the Collins family matriarch. Pfeiffer looks great in costume designer Colleen Atwood's '70s fashions; delivers her dialogue with deadpan hilarity and shines in the film's climax as she defends her home and family with a shotgun at her side.
Chloe Grace Moretz is pitch perfect as Elizabeth's sullen teen daughter Carolyn, a would-be rebel with a Do Not Disturb sign on her bedroom door and plans to continue her Rock n Roll lifestyle in New York City the moment she turns sixteen.
Eva Green brings wide eyes, a wider grin and sexy curves as the witch Angelique; contributing to one of the funniest, movie sex scenes in years as she and Barnabas literally climb the walls of her cannery factory office.
Helena Bonham Carter is both ditzy and dysfunctional as the Collins family psychiatrist. Bella Heathcote, the quintessential Tim Burton heroine with her deep-set eyes and waif-like body (she resembles Burton's Corpse Bride), is wonderfully ethereal as both Josette and Victoria Winters, the nanny who comes to work at Collinwood.
Seth Grahame-Smith (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), working on a script draft by John August, and the original television series created by Dan Curtis, emphasizes the women surrounding Barnabas Collins and by default, the men of the story, Elizabeth's lazy brother Roger (Jonny Lee Miller), Roger's paranormal son David (Gully McGrath of Hugo) and the Collinwood caretaker Willie Loomis (Jackie Earle Haley), all appear dull by comparison. It's perfectly fine because Barnabas and Collinsport women offer more than enough fun to keep the movie afloat.
Tim Burton is a Hollywood director who at one time or another appears to be attached to direct every blockbuster in development but what he does end up directing is always clever, stylish and interesting to watch.
Much of the beauty throughout Dark Shadows has to do with the exceptional crew of artists he gathers for every movie. Still, by the movie's action finale and a closing scene that offers the opportunity for a sequel, it's clear that Dark Shadows is a Tim Burton movie with all of his distinct visual style and storytelling tastes intact.
Few filmmakers can tackle blockbusters and put their thumbprint on the special effects and action stunts and make the movie their own. Think about it, can you honestly tell who directed Battleship or The Avengers?
Dark Shadows is a Tim Burton movie without a doubt, and that's a wonderful thing.
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Director: Tim Burton
Scriptwriter: Seth Grahame-Smith, John August, based on the television series created by Dan Curtis
Cinematographer: Bruno Delbonnel
Cast: Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Jonny Lee Miller, Chloe Grace Moretz, Gulliver McGrath, Jackie Earle Haley, Bella Heathcote
Editor: Chris Lebenson
Production Designer: Rick Heinrichs
Composer: Danny Elfman
Running Time: 113 minutes
Producers: Village Roadshow Pictures, Infinitum Nihil, GK Films, Zanack Company
Rating: Rated PG-13