Tim Burton has stepped out of his comfort zone and cast Helena Bonham Carter and Johnny Depp together in a film. It’s nice to see him trying something new.
In the black comedy Dark Shadows, Barnabas Collins (Depp) looks like a sun-deprived anaemic who was the lovechild of the Grim Reaper and Morticia Adams. Although he has skin to shame snow and is doomed to live an eternity as a monster, he manages to make the blood-sucking streak of your typical vampire attractive. Let’s face it, Depp can make anything sexy. Far from being a Twilight cliché, this film brings snappy lines, well-timed humour and just the right amount of tension to keep it interesting.
The film opens with a narrated flashback that goes back to Barnabas’s childhood with his family where they planned to leave England for America in the 1700’s. Through these flashbacks, Depp tells the story of his family making their fortune in the USA while Barnabas turns into a woman-magnet and a heartbreaker. Because he is sickeningly handsome, wealthy and an overall catch, he breaks many a heart, including the heart of Angelique (Eva Green) who turns out to be a nasty piece of work. She reaps her revenge by wiping out his family and destroying the love of his life.
This is the first decent film Eva Green has been in since Casino Royale where she played a wilting flower. This time, she’s back with a bang playing an Evil Psycho B with and Itch. This EPB makes it her mission to make life as miserable as possible for Barnabas and his family. She curses Barnabas, turns him into a monster and buries him six feet under where he remains for two centuries.
We tend to feel sorry for Barnabas despite the fact that he was a semi-whore, killed a few people and was incredibly vain as a youngster. But hey, he’s a nice guy and he’s incredibly good-looking (did I mention Johnny Depp is playing this character?) so we forgive him for his whorish, murdering ways.
As Barnabas was lying in the ground for two hundred years Angelique was becoming more powerful and more evil. She’s as ruthless as a ruthless person and will stop at nothing to get her revenge on Barnabas (oh, the inhumanity).
After spending two hundred years in a coffin, Barnabas is dug up by builders and finds himself in the year 1972. He returns to his former dwelling, Collinwood Manor, where he finds his once elegant, baroque estate fallen into ruin. The living members of his family are almost as bizarre as Barnabas with many dark secrets of their own. Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeifer) is the head of the family who lives and runs the mansion with her husband Roger (Johnny Lee Miller) who is as emotional as a plank of wood. They live in the mansion with their two children David (Gulliver Mc Grath) and Carolyn (Chloe Moretz). Barnabas turns up at the mansion and vows to restore the estate, the family business and his dignity to its former glory.
Barnabas struggles to adapt to the new world, mistaking his teenage niece for a prostitute when he sees her in skimpy clothes and without the skills to work or understand modern technology. Apart from Barnabas’s attempt to become a modern man, the most obvious thing that does not work in the film is the bizarre romantic angle between Barnabas and Victoria. It didn’t work but thankfully they skimmed over any scenes that were meant to be intensely passionate and romantic and chose innuendo instead.
The film is not a gothic horror, more of a gothic comedy. It is stylish-the mixture of the Baroque and the 70s vibe is something we haven’t seen before in this genre of gothic comedy. It is well-timed-the lines are clever and witty. As a whole, it is something, despite the obvious casting, new. The script is sexy, sarcastic and funny. There are some great loud-out-loud moments in it and Burton once again did what Burton does best.
It seems that the Depp/Bonham Carter/Burton recipe is one for sheer genius. We’ve seen the trio working together in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Alice in Wonderland, Sleepy Hallow, Sweeney Todd, Edward Scissorhands, Corpse Bride and now Dark Shadows. All in all, Burton’s choice of putting Depp and Bonham Carter together is once again, a triumph. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it, or in this case, if it’s not baroque, don’t fix it.