Friday, May 11, 2012

entertainme: "dark shadows" review

Oh, Barnabas Collins, how you tease us with promises of a horror comedy.  "Dark Shadows" is based on the 1960's TV series of the same name. Starring Johnny Depp as the titular character, Barnabas Collins is a vampire rescued from his coffin 200 years after being sent to the grave by a jealous witch AKA his former housekeeper at Collinswood, his magnificent ancestral home. The scenes when Barnabas first sees the light of day after several dark centuries are classic whimsical Depp. As he walks the streets of his hometown in Maine (at night after dispatching the construction workers who discovered him with their monster-jawed machine), he tentatively explores this strange new time period. His reactions to things like headlights in the dark = a demon and pavement = scary new surface brought roars of laughter from the audience at the screening.

As he winds his way back to his former home, he meets the current residents of Collinswood: Caretaker Willie (Jackie Earle Haley), matriarch of the home and distant relative Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer) and her teen daughter Carolyn (Chloe Grace Moretz), Elizabeth's brother Roger (Jonny Lee Miller) along with his son David (Gulliver McGrath) and David's therapist Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter). They are joined by new governess, Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcote) who bears a striking resemblance to Josette DuPres, Barnabas's first love (from the 1700's). As he meets the quirky family (David can talk with his mother's ghost), Barnabas finds out that his family (and his house) are falling apart due to the cooly beautiful Angelique Bouchard who just happens to be the witch who condemned Barnabas to his tomb two centuries earlier for spurning her love. In her quest to dominate Collinsport, the town created by Barnabas's family when they emigrated from Liverpool in 1752 to begin a new life in America, Angelique (Eva Green unrecognizable as a blonde) has turned the tides in the town towards her favor. That is, of course, until Barnabas arrives to take back what was once his.

Depp is most in his element surrounded by his favorite moviemaking pals like director Tim Burton, Helena Bonham Carter and Danny Elfman (original music). Watching Depp and his pals on screen, one gets the impression that the cast and crew are a well oiled machine. While Depp is, of course, outstanding in a role that he inhabits well, the relatively unknown Bella Heathcote easily joins the Burton/Depp clique giving a performance that is just chilly enough to warrant a warning that all is not what it seems with this lovely girl.

Depp fans will flock to "Dark Shadows" but it will be interesting to see how it fares at the box office this weekend against last weekend's big box office winner "Marvel's The Avengers."

"Dark Shadows" is rated PG-13. Run time: 113 minutes

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