Saturday, May 12, 2012

Johnny Depp Is Barnabas Collins In Dark Shadows

Barnabas Collins has risen again.

The always interesting, daring and adventurous Johnny Depp brings the popular vampire to life in Tim Burton’s campy, sometimes hysterical, sometimes dramatic, sometimes over the top, sometimes slow, Dark Shadows, a throwback to the 60s and early 70s cult classic soap opera by the same name.  The show ran on ABC from 1966 to 1971 and focused on the exploits of Barnabas Collins, which was played favorably by Jonathan Frid, who died last month.


This gothic comedy features an all-star cast that includes Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Eva Green, Bella Heathcot, Johnny Miller, Gulliver McGrath, Ivan Kay and Susanna Capellaro.

The year is 1752, Joshua and Naomi Collins, with young son Barnabas, set sail from Liverpool, England to start a new life in America.  Two decades pass and Barnabas (Depp) is sitting pretty  in the town of Collinsport, Maine.  The master of Collinwood Manor, Barnabas is rich, powerful and, well, a bit of a playboy.  However when he makes the bad mistake of breaking up with Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green), who claims to love him dearly -  for the affections of another, all hell (literally) breaks loose.   A witch, Angelique not only sends Barnabas’s lover over a cliff, she puts a curse on Barnabas sealing his fate by turning him into a vampire, and then burying him alive.

Oh, the humanity!!!!

Now, it’s 1972 and Barnabas is back. 


There’s no getting around it, Depp is fabulous even though the performance feels a bit familiar. He has played the role of the weirdo on many occasions, including the recent Alice in Wonderland, Sweeney Todd, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Ed Wood, Edward Scissorhands and even Jack Sparrow of Pirates of the Caribbean fame.

Still, Depp is good. He’s funny! He’s irreverent! He’s wonderfully sinister!! His timing is brilliant and even as a vampire, he’s not bad to look at.

When he rises from the grave after nearly 200 years, he’s amazed at the simplest modern man advancements, including red lava lamps and paved roads. He’s hilariously and goolishly polite to some stoners who are about to become his victims by saying, “It is with sincere regret that I must now kill all of you.”

When he arrives at a mansion he previously owned, which is now occupied by members of his family, he prepares his revenge on Angelique by restoring the family business to its rightful place at the top. 

For the first time in a Tim Burton film, there is a sex scene. Well, sort of.  Angelique and Barnabas have a sexy romp to the sounds of Barry White.  The scene is kinda funny. Depp has a great line at the end after he sees the romp has lead to the destruction of the room. However, the payoff isn’t enough. 


Another funny bit is the addition of rocker Alice Cooper, who performs at a “happening” given by the Collins clan. Of course, Barnabas, unfamiliar with Cooper repeatedly refers to him as “she” and even refers to him being the ugliest woman he’s ever seen.

There are some very good moments in Dark Shadows, which happens to be the eighth Burton/Depp collaboration. That being said, there are also some moments that drag, as well as some that rely on special effects – that, unfortunately, fall flat.

Pfeiffer is miscast. However, Chloƫ Grace Moretz, who plays her rebellious daughter, Carolyn, is hysterical, as is the always memorable, but briefly seen Helena Bonham Carter.

What is interesting about Burton’s Dark Shadows is how he meshes gore and violence with comedy and drama.  You don’t know whether to laugh at a murder scene or be horrified.

There’s a duality going on that’s not very clear.

Still, if you’re looking for a good popcorn movie and want to suspend disbelief for two hours, Dark Shadows is something you can probably sink your teeth into.

On the Donloe Scale, D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likable), O (OK) and E (excellent), “Dark Shadows” gets an L (likable).

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