36/100 (113 min, 2012)
Plot: An imprisoned vampire, Barnabas Collins, is set free and returns to his ancestral home, where his dysfunctional descendants are in need of his protection.
Director: Tim Burton
Writers: Seth Grahame-Smith (screenplay), John August (story)
Stars: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer and Eva Green
Burn, baby, burn!
I love Tim Burton's movies. I love his imagination, the beautiful cinematography, Danny Elfman's scores, the bizarre and grotesque world that always hides within the frames of his pictures. Even Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland while definitely weren't the best of his movies, were at least coherent, had a consistent style and at least managed to be entertaining. With Dark Shadows I was hoping it will be a good movie till the very last moment, that is until I actually saw it. I don't know what happened to Tim Burton but Dark Shadows is a huge disappointment and worse yet - complete, embarrassing and ridiculous mess that at times is not even watchable.
The story follows....oh wait that's not right. Dark Shadows doesn't really follow any of the characters, it changes the points of view many times and it never makes much sense. So let me start over - once there was a rich playboy Barnabas Collins who fooled around with the girls. That was until he fell in love with Josette, lovely, blond girl. One of the girls he abandoned - Angelique - turns out to be a witch and she decides to take her revenge - she makes Josette jump out of cliff to her death and Barnabas follows. But he doesn't die - it turns out that Angelique turned him into a vampire.
And that's not everything - Angelique buries Barnabas alive so he would be locked with his broken heart in a coffin for eternity. But eternity ends in 1972 when the coffin containing Barnabas is accidentally dug up due to the construction of McDonald's. Barnabas finds his way to the family estate and meets the inhabitants - Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer), her brother Roger, his disturbed son David, the son's psychiatrist, alcoholic and dismissive Dr. Julia Hoffman, Elizabeth's annoying and rebellious daughter Caroline (Chloe Moretz) and David's governess Vicky (Bella Heathcote) who harbors a secret of her own.
It turns out that the Collins fortune is almost completely gone and that Angelique is now beloved in the town of Colinwood and runs a concurrent business. She is still a witch and she appears to never age - something that is never explained here - but she masquerades herself as a daughter, granddaughter and so on of herself to the oblivious people of Colinwood. Also - she is still mad and madly in love with Barnabas, who vows to protect his family and Vicky, with whom he starts to fall in love with. Vicky looks exactly like Josette, which Barnabas immediately noticed upon meeting her. The connection between and Josette is also, you guessed it, never explained.
Worse yet - Dark Shadows is not even supposed to be a comedy. I have no idea what it was supposed to be. I think even Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, who is also the producer of the film, have no idea what it was supposed to be. There is drama here, family movie, some weird psycho sexual comedy and just plain awkwardness and mess all around. Burton and Depp pay homage to the original TV series the movie is based on, but so what. In this movie, the cameos and homages linking this film to the series play almost like an insult to it.
Then there is Chloe Moretz - she plays annoying teenager and since she is annoying to begin with this just creates a bomb that you hope will explode before your eyes. I kept wishing for someone to slap her across the face three times in the row. Moretz's work in this movie is so bad I think I'm gonna buy a bucket for popcorn and eat it while I will read the reviews for Carrie remake which will hopefully flop. Looking like a little hussy and squinting her eyes, Moretz apparently confused auditions for pole dancing with actual acting.
Then we have Bella Heathcote who actually impressed me - I have no idea who she is, but in addition to being incredibly beautiful - she has eyes as captivating as Winona Ryder's in Beetle Juice - she actually gets to portray something deeper about her character - the sense of hurt and vulnerability. Mia Wasikowska started to make good movies after "Alice in Wonderland" and I truly hope this will also be a case for Heathcote.
Burton unfortunately uses her character in a cheap attempt to make an opening for a possible sequel. What happens before this, though, is the worst part of the movie - for the first 10 minutes I actually liked it, though the flashback sequences were rushed, the opening that follows, when we see Vicky arriving to the town is mysterious, captivating and unforgettable. But from the moment she knocks on the door of the mansion things start to fall apart fast. And the real disaster comes in the third act of the movie.
The things that did work is the visual side of the film which is gorgeous - production designer Rick Heinrichs designed Collinwood to reflect its maritime heritage - ocean motifs like fish and mermaids are present throughout the house and its furnishings, including seahorses in the fireplace along with statues of the sea god Neptune. The town really looks amazing - with the houses built out of wood with prominent red and blue roofs, the blue sky over it and the ocean right nearby. 70's defining elements also find a lot of counterparts in the film with the goofy buses, lava lamps and the clothing.
The music is fantastic - that is when it comes to the choices of the songs in the film with "Nights in white satin" and "Superfly" among others. Danny Elfman's score on the other hand didn't make an impression on me.
Helena Bonham Carter, Eva Green and the visual side aided by great music aside there is really nothing worth seeing here. The film, for me, is the worst collaboration between Depp and Burton to date. It lacked good script and director's vision as for what he wants to achieve with this movie. I wouldn't recommend it even to hardcore Tim Burton fans, but if you like Eva Green as I do the film is worth seeing just to see her fun performance.