<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Tim Burton. Starring Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Eva Green, Helena Bonham Carter, Bella Heathcote, Chloe Moretz, Gulliver McGrath, Jackie Earle Haley, Christopher Lee.
Not expecting much after watching the slapstick trailer, I was ghoulishly surprised by Dark Shadows. Depp and his wonderfully crafted dialogue, Danny Elfman’s haunting score, Burton’s lavishly menacing visuals and a brilliant cast make this film dastardly different and enjoyable.
The film is based on a ‘gothic soap opera’ aired in America during the 60s and early 70s. At first glance you’d imagine it to be something like The Addams Family. And while it does have the whimsy, it certainly has deeper overtones of darkness lurking within it.
In ancient times the Collins family of Liverpool, England settle in an American village, which they turn into a central port for fisheries and it, is thereafter named Collinsport in their honour. But sorcery and witchcraft lie in wait for their son Barnabas who upon rejecting the chamber maid’s advances in favour of his love Josette courts her wrath and a curse: he is turned into a vampire, his love is coerced into jumping off a cliff and the towns people (pitchforks and all) bury Barnabas alive. But thanks to modernisation, he is unearthed in the 70s, vowing to bring back his family to its former glory.
Barnabas’s (Johnny Depp) new family of Collins descendants comprise Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer), Roger (her brother, played by Johnny Lee Miller), Carolyn (Chloe Moretz from Hugo), Roger’s ‘I see dead people’ son David (Gulliver McGrath) along with the house help Willie (Jackie Earle Haley), David’s new governess Victoria (Bella Heathcote who is the reincarnation of Josette) and the resident shrink Dr Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter).
Witches have long lives and Barnabas’s archenemy, Angelique (Eva Green), has taken over Collinsport, seen that his family name has been destroyed and started her own fishery. Let the games begin!
Right from the start Tim Burton’s direction and set design are unmistakable. And his partner in crime Danny Elfman’s background score is, as usual, magnificent. The screenplay by Seth Grahame-Smith is deliciously dark and witty. Since Barnabas is from age-old times his English is decidedly old but devilishly eloquent and amusing. His repartee with Angelique and their gravity-defying sex scene are hilarious.
As with all Tim Burton films, the supporting characters are nuanced and exquisite. Even Christopher Lee’s cameo as a sea captain stands out. Chloe Moritz is the teenage rebel howling for some fun and her sex avatar shows her versatility after playing the good girl in the magical film Hugo. Pfeiffer is good, Bonham Carter is too if a bit predictable.
If you like Tim Burton films, if you love Johnny Depp, if your heart craves some wicked fun then Dark Shadows is your cup of blood this weekend.