There are many reasons a movie would grab my initial attention. Superhero movies, bromance comedies, sci-fi blockbusters; these will always grab my interest. A movie about a vampire trying to revive his family name in the 1970s is definitely not something I would see myself enjoying. Regardless of my doubts on the concept, when watching the preview, I could see a huge potential for hilarity. Unfortunately for me, the movie was quite disappointing. Read on for slight spoilers.
The story, as far as the Dark Shadows film goes, is about a man, Barnabus Collins (Johnny Depp) who is scorned by the wrong witch and is cursed to be a vampire for the rest of eternity. If that wasn’t enough, she turned the whole town against him and they buried him. Some 200 years later, he awakens in the ’70s to see his family name and glorious castle in utter ruins. The whole concept just screams Tim Burton. Of course, the scorned witch, otherwise known as Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green), is still among the living and strives to continue Barnabus’ torment in “modern” day. She is the sole reason for the demise of the Collins family business and wishes that downfall to remain uninterrupted. But Barnabus has other plans.
The majority of the cast choices are par for the course considering the director, but there were a few refreshing surprises. Michelle Pfeiffer as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard was positively delightful. I absolutely love Pfeiffer as a sort-of-snooty older woman. She always seems so desperate to regain her youth. That might be a trait she intends to convey in her roles or it may be a natural addition to her personality. Either way, I really enjoyed Michelle Pfeiffer’s part in this movie. Gulliver McGrath playing the haunted David Collins was a welcome casting as well. The young actor was very successful in his attempts to creep out the audience.
Bella Heathcote as the mysterious Victoria Winters was by far my favorite casting though. This somewhat-new Australian actress won’t be known for much at this point but I can tell her charm and skill will get her very far in her career. Not to mention she was the most beautiful choice to play the slightly deranged Ms. Winters. Groundskeeper Willie (no, not Simpsons Willie), although not a huge role, was very well portrayed by Jackie Earle Haley, our very own Rorschach.
Alternatively, the most obvious castings ended up being the most problematic. Helena Bonham Carter as Dr. Julia Hoffman left much to be desired and I honestly question the point of her existence in the film. She plays the Collins family doctor who is gloriously and obviously over-medicated. Her blasé attitude was simply agonizing to watch. Even though it was an attitude shared by the rest of the family, it’s aggravating to consistently see her typecasted to act so indifferent and jaded. It seems like the only thing she can do at this point and I couldn’t help but wonder if her drunk facade was her actual state of mind while filming.
Johnny Depp as the most believable vampire, Barnabus Collins, could be annoying depending on your fandom. He is a known fan of the original Dark Shadows soap opera along with Tim Burton. The television series, by the way, has a vastly different chain of events. It doesn’t surprise me that they both had parts in the production of this movie. They almost seemed desperate to cake as much make-up on Depp’s face as humanly possible. His varying history of diverse roles are starting to mesh and are beginning to seem like different facets of the same character. His portrayal of Count Collins seemed a slight mixture of Jack Sparrow and Sweeney Todd.
The movie takes some random turns involving Chloe Moretz’s character, Carolyn Stoddard, that just don’t fit into the storyline. I did not hate her acting but it did seem very out-of-place for her. There were far too many attempts at humor based on its ’70s time frame, which, in my opinion, was a wasted point in the plot. I realize they chose the 1970s based on the original airing of the soap opera but I think the idea would have been much funnier in true modern day. So, unsurprisingly, I left the theater with a bad taste in my mouth. I would not say that this movie is a waste of time, but if are looking for an exciting movie-going experience this weekend, you will not find it in Dark Shadows. I give this movie 2 out of 5 Nerdskulls.