Dark Shadows
Dark Shadows
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Dark Shadows

A 2012 movie directed by Tim Burton based on the supernatural soap opera

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Depp Finally Lands His Dream Role

  • May 12, 2012
Star Rating:

In a 2007 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Johnny Depp proudly stated that, as he grew up watching Dark Shadows, he wanted to be the vampire Barnabas Collins. “I think lots of kids did,” he said. “He was super-mysterious, with that really weird hairdo and the wolf’s-head cane. Good stuff.” Depp is now luckier than ever to be dear friends with Tim Burton; apart from the fact that he helmed this year’s film adaptation of the gothic soap opera, he gave Depp the chance to live his dream by casting him as Barnabas Collins. I grant you that this is nepotism, but you’d be hard pressed to convince me that any living actor would have been better suited for this role. Depp is of an elite group of actors who can disappear into a role so thoroughly that it’s difficult to tell where the real person ends and the character begins.
Dark Shadowsis just plain fun, simultaneously an homage to and a parody of the original soap opera. In much the same way as Burton’s own Beetlejuice, it represents a delicate balancing act between comedy and horror. Unlike Beetlejuice, the comedy has a bit more bite, and the horror is more elegant and brooding, as if it was taken straight from the pages of a Victorian gothic novel. As is the case with all Tim Burton movies, it’s also a triumph of art direction and set decoration. Praise must be given to production designer Rick Heinrichs, whose vision for Collinwood Manor playfully blends whimsy with authentic period architecture. Here is a man who knows how to create the right atmosphere for a story like this. Surely he and Burton have influenced each other, given the fact that the two have now collaborated on thirteen projects.

A prologue sequence serves as an expository introduction to Barnabas Collins. When he was a boy in 1752, he and his parents sailed from Liverpool to Maine to expand their family-run fishing business. The city of Collinsport was established, and over the course of fifteen years, Collinwood Manor was built. As a young man, Barnabas made the mistake of spurning an infatuated servant girl named Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green), who also happened to be a witch. Enraged, she took her revenge on Barnabas by killing his parents and hypnotizing every young woman he fell in love with into jumping off a cliff. The last of them was his true love, Josette du Pres (Bella Heathcote). Barnabas attempted to join her in death, but was instead cursed by Angelique into becoming a vampire (an interesting new twist on the vampire mythos, to say the least). She then turned the townspeople against him. Ultimately, he was buried in a chained coffin the middle of the forest.
We then flash forward 196 years to 1972, at which point a young woman named Victoria Winters (also played by Heathcote) travels by train up to Collinsport, where she hopes to become the new governess for the remaining descendants of the Collins family. She arrives at a now dilapidated Collinwood and meets: The matriarchal Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer); her moody and rebellious teenage daughter Carolyn (Chloë Grace Moretz); her stodgy and greedy brother Roger (Jonny Lee Miller); her ten-year-old nephew David (Gulliver McGrath), who lost his mother and claims he can still speak to her; David’s live-in psychiatrist Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter), who is herself in desperate need of counseling; and the manor’s caretaker Willie Loomis (Jackie Earl Haley), a perpetually drunk goofball.

Barnabas is accidentally liberated from his prison by a construction crew, most of whom are unfortunately sucked dry of their blood. Despite the astronomical generation gap – he’s understandably bewildered by a McDonald’s sign, a TV set, car headlights, asphalt, a lava lamp, a mirror ball, and the fact that women are allowed to be doctors – he returns to Collinwood determined to revamp his once thriving fishing business and in turn restore his family’s honor. The competition, and this should not surprise anyone, is presided over by none other than Angelique, who now calls herself Angie. When she learns that Barnabas has escaped, she simultaneously vows to win him back and to destroy his business and family for good.
The film is obviously supposed to in part be funny. Much of the humor stems from Barnabas’ difficultly in adapting to late twentieth-century American culture. This includes having to contend with a group of pot-smoking hippies and an appearance by Alice Cooper, who Barnabas declares is the ugliest woman he has ever seen. But it’s also supposed to be gothic and melodramatic, ghosts, werewolves, black magic, and even a romance between Barnabas and the secretive Victoria all finding their way into the plot. I’ve heard complaints about the meandering storyline and sudden shifts in tone, which I find strange given that the beloved original series frequently made use of overly dramatic plot twists. You cannot expect Dark Shadows to be anything more than what it is.


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June 14, 2012
Don't know why I haven't seen this one yet. Thank you for the persuasive, insightful recommendation not to wait much longer. Well done.
June 16, 2012
Thanks. You should know that I'm partial to Tim Burton's films, so it's quite possible I'm being more lenient on the film than I should be.
June 16, 2012
If his work ever needs it, Burton has earned a little leniency.
May 12, 2012
I used to run home after school to catch the original soap opera. (I always called a soap opera about a vampire, and my dad always laughs.) Anyway, very professional review. The information about Depp and the movie are expert. I enjoyed reading this.
May 13, 2012
Thanks for the comment. I have to say, though, the information about Depp is readily available on Wikipedia, so it's not as if I did any extensive investigative journalism. I just thought it was interesting that he grew up loving the show and now had the chance to play the character he so loved. Not too many people, actors or otherwise, get that opportunity. Seeing as you also grew up watching the show, I'd love to know what you thought of the film.
May 12, 2012
Yay. I've read mostly mixed responses regarding this one but I'll consider seeing it perhaps in a few weeks after I've done my Burton marathon.
May 12, 2012
Tim Burton films have rarely been recognized by critics, so it doesn't surprise me that this one isn't getting a glowing response. Since Burton is my favorite director, I supposed I'm naturally wired to enjoy almost anything he makes.
More Dark Shadows (2012 Film) reviews
review by . May 12, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Tim Burton Brings Barnabas Collins in the Swinging, Hip 70's....
When I first heard that Tim Burton was making a film based on the vampire soap opera of the same name “Dark Shadows“, I have to admit I really didn’t know what to think. Burton is great in making his own material but I have always had mixed feelings when it comes to him re-interpreting other people’s works. I loved “Nightmare Before Christmas”, “Beetlejuice” and “Edward Scissorhands”. I even liked “Cabin Boy” but I had …
review by . May 26, 2012
posted in Dark Shadows
I'm an old school Dark Shadows fan who used to run home from school like everyone else, saw both of the original films when they came out, protested at NBC when the 1991 series was cancellled and have attended several of the conventions. Given all that I really enjoyed this film that injected comedy and changed the Barnabas Collins tale.     This one left off the time travel and had Barnabas freed from his coffin into a present where Collinwood is in ruins and the family is far …
review by . May 13, 2012
posted in Dark Shadows
Dark Shadows (2012) is destined to split the audience into two camps.      Camp A will love this movie because they are fans of the Burton/Depp team. In their eyes, B/D can do no wrong, because the source material is immaterial. They go in expecting only to be entertained by a certain kind of shtick...and in this particular case, they received it in spades, and therefore went home from the theater quite pleased from having their expectations met.      Camp …
review by . May 23, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
**1/2 out of ****    "Dark Shadows" does well to give us just about everything we've come to expect from a director-and-star collaboration between the highly imaginative Tim Burton and the illusive character actor Johnny Depp. There's a heart and it's always beating; illuminated by Burton's colorful, visionary sets and camerawork. The man knows what he wants, what we want, and what the studio wants in return. He's out to please. Sometimes, this is a problem, and other times, …
review by . September 05, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
   There's no miracle that Tim Burton knows how to create dark cartoonish worlds in which wild colors and vivid characters battle for the enchanted ground of these fantastic universes. Dark Shadows is wild, goofy, and colorful but it kinda feels like an asthma crisis. You know you have this urgency and impatience to watch the next Tim Burton film but even as a fan of him it does nothing in the end but providing you sudden gasps time after time. It's an interesting thing because …
review by . May 15, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
A Visually Beautiful Gothic-Like And Delightful Film
      Tim Burton and Johnny Depp come together again in this wonderfully delightful film.  Depp proves again that he is capable of successfully portraying any type of character - his talent seems to reach out to the viewer in a huge way - every role he has played he always manages to convince me he really is the character he's playing; it's almost hypnotic, and his role as Barnabas Collins was no exception.      The film starts out as Collins …
review by . May 10, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Remember when Tim Burton had some indie cred, and his emo movies were something new that brought credibility and something different to the movies.  Remember seeing his remake of Planet of the Apes, how he had them wear those stupid hats, just how upset you got seeing it, and wishing things could go back to the way they were.  It hasn't.  You would think a movie based on a sixties vampire soap opera would be right up his alley.  And maybe it was.  And Burton …
review by . May 10, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
'Dark Shadows' 'Two Jews On Film' Show Their Teeth Over Johnny Depp's Campy Performance (Video)
      By Joan Alperin Schwartz      For those of you, like myself, who aren't familiar with the television series 'Dark Shadows' which ran from 1966-1971, here are the film's cliff notes...   The year...1750 (give or take)      A wealthy young man named Barnabus Collins (Johnny Depp) gets it on with his maid, Angelique (Eva Green) who just happens to be a witch...She feels the love...He...not so …
review by . May 10, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
DARK SHADOWS Written by Seth Grahame-Smith Directed by Tim Burton Starring Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer and Eva Green   Barnabas Collins: Of all the servants I could have spurned, I got the witch.   The original soap opera television series, DARK SHADOWS, is before my time, I’m afraid. I’ve never seen the show but from what I understand, it was a bizarre endeavor that, about six months into its roughly 5-year and 1225 episode run, introduced ghosts and other supernatural …
Quick Tip by . September 14, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Can't wait for this film to arrive. It changes the storyline from what has been done before as it is told in chronological order, without the time travel that the previous incarnations had. Great cast including Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Lee and original stars Jonathan Frid, Kathryn Lee Scott, Lara Parker and David Selby. Depp looks like Michael Jackson in some of the shots.
About the reviewer
Chris Pandolfi ()
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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About this movie


The first photos from the set of TimBurton’s Dark Shadows adaptation have surfaced online and they reveal Johnny Depp looking about as creepy as you would expect him to look in a Burton film. In case you’re unaware, Dark Shadows sees Depp making a turn as Barnabas Collins, a powerful playboy who is buried alive in the 18th century only to reemerge in 1972 as a vampire who is none too pleased with the ruin of his once fine piece of real estate.
Check out the set photos and an official synopsis after the jump. Also starring Chloe Moretz, Helena Bonham Carter, EvaGreen, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Lee and Jackie Earle Haley, Dark Shadows is slated to hittheaters on May 11th, 2012.
Click over to Celebuzz to check out more Dark Shadows set pics [click to enlarge]:
Here’s the official film synopsis:
In the year 1752, Joshua and Naomi Collins, with young son Barnabas, set sail from Liverpool, England to start a new life in America. But even an ocean was not enough to escape the mysterious curse that has plagued their family. Two decades pass and Barnabas (Johnny Depp) has the world at his feet—or at least the town of Collinsport, Maine. The master of Collinwood Manor, Barnabas is rich, powerful and an inveterate playboy…until he makes the grave mistake of breaking the heart of Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green). A witch, in every sense of the word, Angelique dooms him to a fate worse than death: turning him into a vampire, and then burying him ...
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