31 Days of Hallowe’en, Day 4: Dark Shadows (2012)

At the risk of pointlessly mentioning even more movies I’m eschewing for my month-long horror-a-thon, I’d considered adding The Picture of Dorian Gray to my list, but felt it would have been wasted on me, as I’d not read the source material (I know; very appalling of me). So it’s a bit hypocritical of me to have included Dark Shadows if I’ve not seen its source material either, but I’ve only just made the comparison, it’s past 1am and I’m fucking knackered and we’ve already seen it. At least my husband was able to give me the gist of the TV show (terrible plots and acting; wobbly movie sets; the shot-for-shot remake of a protagonist on a train etc. etc.).

Based on a gothic soap opera, you’d expect that the movie’s central storyline is  dripping with romance, jealousy, betrayal, and a smattering of intrigue and OTT-ingly complex family dynamics (and this movie has all of it in spades). I don’t think I’ve left anything out. Ah. and, since it’s a Tim Burton movie, the makeup is pallid, regardless of character; every actor is doe-eyed and expressive, and frequent collaborator Colleen Atwood’s costumes are at once outrageous and gorgeous. And, of course, it’s scored by Danny Elfman, stars Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter.


But for good measure, our plot revolves around vampire Barnabas Collins (Depp) who awakens after two centuries to find himself in 1970s America. His descendants, who are now living at the mansion, include Elizabeth (Michelle Pfieffer), her daughter Carolyn (Chloe Grace-Moretz), her brother Roger (Jonny Lee Miller), his son David (Gulliver McGrath), and David’s doctor, Dr. Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter). All is starting to go well until Barnabas bumps into Angelique (Eva Green), an immortal witch who cursed/transformed him into a vampire after he shagged and ditched her. As you can imagine, it ain’t a happy reunion. Cue lots of deliberately, deliciosuly, hammy soap opera over-acting (Eva Green is brilliant). silly, guffaw-indicing unexpected plot twists, and gaudy ’70s color palettes.

So a Tim Burton movie is a Tim Burton movie; because I’ve been a lifelong Burton-ite, it’s neither good nor bad to me. It kind of harkens back to the feel of pre-Depp/HBC day, during its moments of  goofy humor, social outcast themes and gooey-eyed, soft-voiced female protagonists (Victoria, as played by Bella Heathcote, is Christina Ricci’s eyes paired with Winona Ryder’s voice). Less visually stunning but with more of an engaging story/characters than Alice in Wonderland, this movie tries to replicate the soap opera format, but, due to time constraints, tries to jam-pack a season’s worth of storylines in less than two hours – and because of that, the film seems overlong and trudges, on an uneven tone, from scene to scene, with some of its twists coming off as a wee bit predictable. Still, it was a nice light bit of relief between harder, bleaker horror movies in my month-long challenge. Being a lifelong Burton fan, I’ll take any Burton movie and like it. I’m really not that fussy; I’m happy to have been given one at all.

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