The concept of turning old American television shows into Hollywood films is nothing new. Bewitched, The A-Team and Miami Vice have all been adapted and “revamped” with cultural references thrown in for good measure and now comes the turn of a less well-known show Dark Shadows.
In interviews, Johnny Depp mentioned that he had always wanted to play the lead role of Barnabas Collins, revealing a slight obsession with the character and the show itself. His childhood dream now granted and with director and close friend Tim Burton at the helm, Dark Shadows now becomes the eighth motion picture that the pair has worked on.
Now for those who aren’t too familiar with this cult, American television show from the late 60s, Dark Shadows, follows nanny Victoria Winters as she embarks on looking after the Collinwood household situated in the town of Collinsport. The house is haunted with family ghosts, wreaking havoc amongst the estranged family. In the television series, Barnabas Collins doesn’t make an appearance until episode 210, so the narrative of the film had to be altered slightly…
The year is 1752. After the Collins family, along with their son Barnabas (Johnny Depp), sails to America from their hometown of Liverpool, they settle in the town of Collinsport. Barnabas grows up to be a respected, wealthy playboy, but after breaking the heart of witch Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green), a curse is put upon him and he is buried alive where he must live for eternity as a vampire. Fast-forward to 1972 and being set free from his coffin accidentally, Barnabas returns to his mansion only to be greeted by a family of Collins descendants, run by the matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer). Meanwhile, Elizabeth has recently hired a new nanny Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcote), but Barnabas cannot help but notice an uncanny resemblance in her to someone he once knew…
With every Tim Burton picture, you are guaranteed certain nuances and acting styles that has now become synonymous with how Burton makes his films. Every shot is draped with gloss and colour and every actor seems to have grandiose, hypnotic features added to their faces, giving off a cartoonish feel. The style certainly gives each scene a sense of originality, but much of it was too similar to Alice in Wonderland. Helena Bonham Carter, who plays the role of live-in psychiatrist Dr Julia Hoffman, is purely in her element adding very subtle but effective comedic touches to the scenes she is in. However, the standout female role has to go to Chloe Moretz, the spoilt teenage daughter who typifies what it was to be young in the culturally-confused era of the 1970s.
Dark Shadows excels when Depp is on screen (which is most of the film), but falls at the last hurdle with its comedy. A 12A rating obviously asks for “toned-down” filth, but some sequences questionably teeter on the edge of a 15 rating. The comic elements are funny in short bursts, but they quickly get sillier and sillier with a sex scene sequence between Depp and Green that Burton should be thoroughly ashamed of.
The film will be a hit with young teenagers and old fans of the television series, but many of the jokes have been done before and one can’t help but feel a slight disappointment with what Dark Shadows could have been.
Watch the trailer for Dark Shadows here