Monday, 27 May 2013

Dark Shadows (5 Stars)

There's no justice in the world. This film was a box office flop. I don't understand why. It was directed by Tim Burton, it stars Johnny Depp and vampires are "in". It earned $80 million at the box office, but considering that its budget was $150 million that's an enormous loss. So what went wrong? I honestly don't know. Was it the film's quality? I think not, "Dark Shadows" is a typical mix of Burton-Depp brilliance.

The film is based on the television series that holds the record for being the longest running vampire tv series ever, running for a total of 1225 episodes from 1966 to 1971. Compare that with the 144 episodes of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer". The tv series is often referred to as a soap opera, as if that would degrade it. The ctiteria for a series being a soap opera is that it is aired at least twice a week without interruption for 52 weeks a year. That would indeed qualify it as a soap opera, even though its supernatural subject matter is unusual for the genre.

Tim Burton, Johnny Depp and Michelle Pfeiffer all claim to be big fans of the original series. As a child Johnny even wished he could be Barnabas Collins. This film fulfilled his wish at last. The story is very compact, only having 90 minutes running time, but it captures the essence of the Barnabas Collins saga. In 1760 the Collins family emigrated from England (Liverpool) to Maine, where they founded first a port and then a town that they named Collinsport. The son and heir of the family, Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp), has a brief affair with a maid, Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green). Unknown to him she's a witch, and when he turns away from her she curses him by making him a vampire and burying him alive.

200 years later, in 1972, his coffin is accidentally unearthed. Barnabas returns to the family mansion and finds it run down. The family matriarch, Elizabeth Collins (Michelle Pfeiffer) is struggling to hold onto it despite being bankrupt. Barnabas reveals the treasure hidden in the cellar and helps revive the family fishing business. But Angelique is still alive and well in Collinsport, now a successful businesswoman. She still loves Barnabas, but he spurns her once more, and she vows revenge.

The beauty of this film is the portrayal of the dysfunctional Collins family. We find out very late in the film that the younger family members, 10-year-old David (Gulliver McGrath) and 15-year-old Carolyn (Chloe Grace Moretz), also have secrets. I'll refrain from spoilers. All I'll say is that the groundwork has been lain for a sequel. Unfortunately, after this film's poor box office performance I doubt the sequel will ever come.

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