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USA 2012
Directed by
Tim Burton
113 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Lia McCrae-Moore
3.5 stars

Dark Shadows

Synopsis: In 1760 in the little fishing village of Collinsport, Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp), the heir of Collinwood Manor, rebuffs Angelique Bouchard’s (Eva Green) aattentions for the love of his sweetheart, Josette (Bella Heathcote). Enraged, Angelique works her magic and sentences Barnabas to a life of eternal misery as a vampire. Fast-forward to 1972 and Barnabas resurfaces to take his rightful place as Master of the Manor; bunking in with matriarch Elizabeth (Michelle Pfieffer), her sultry teenage daughter, Carolyn (Chloe Grace Moretz), deceitful brother Roger (Jonny Lee Miller) and son David (Gully McGrath), vain psychiatrist Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham-Carter) and the beautiful but fey governess Vicky (Bella Heathcote) whose uncanny likeness to Josette is not accidental. Barnabas finds himself embroiled once again in a power struggle with the incorrigible Angelique.

Dark Shadows is based on the cult television series of the same name from the 1960’s, which I admit I have never seen. Its premise is hilarious, its length nearing tedious. I don’t mean to go on about this because on the whole I really quite enjoyed Burton’s latest offering. It is playful and witty and Danny Elfman’s carefully selected 70s soundtrack is a hoot. But, I have to confess I am finding it harder and harder to watch films that run for longer than 90 minutes, unless they are exceptional. Surely there is an art to knowing when to shed the excess and tighten the pace. Yet I probably shouldn’t be so hard on this film as it is actually one of the few Burton films I’ve enjoyed in a long while.

Dark Shadows arcs back to the black humour days of Edward Scissorhands (1990) or, more recently, Sweeney Todd (2007). There are some classic one-liners, and Johnny Depp plays the awkward, confused but confidently curious Barnabas, adeptly (so to speak). It is after all a character-type he has had time to hone over the years in his many collaborations with Burton. Eva Green and Michelle Pfieffer also give gutsy, entertaining performances as the two matriarchs battling it out for Collinsport. Although, I found Bella Heathcote’s character too underdeveloped to be of much interest, Helena Bonham-Carter was engaging enough as the drug-addicted psychiatrist who is obsessed with eternal youth.

Depp and Green’s lusty sex scene is probably the best fantasy sex I’ve ever seen. It’s tightly edited and set to a racy tune. There is lots of writhing and smashing of furniture during the harried removal of clothing. It is hilarious, a total romp and well worth the watch. On the other hand I was not in the least bit convinced by Barnabas and Vicky’s love for one another.

Burton’s visuals are stunning and the set design and costuming outstanding but I found the storyline prosaic. Nevertheless the distinct '70s flavour combined wittily with Burton’s trademark gothic excess was enough to keep my eyes enraptured for at least 90 of its 113mins.




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