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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Dark Shadows | Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Eva Green, Jackie Earle Haley, Chloe Moretz | Review

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  3_Chicks_Small Jacqueline Monahan

Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for
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Dark Shadows | Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Eva Green, Jackie Earle Haley, Chloe Moretz | Review

A more fitting title would have been 1972.  That’s the year you’ll spend the most time exploring, along with 200-year-old Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) and his groovy macramé and lava-lamp décor loving descendants.  Even hippies make an appearance.  Like, oh wow, man.

If you remember the supernatural 60’s soap series, you may recognize the character names, but little else.  The eerie atmosphere of gravitas and the creepy theme song are AWOL.

There are still waves crashing on the rocky shore far below Collinwood, the grand manor that Barnabas’ parents had built in the 1760’s, after emigrating from England to Maine and establishing a village – Collinsport – entirely supported by the Collins-owned fishing industry.

Back then, the human Barnabas dallied with the family maid/witch Angelique (Eva Green), but fell in love with the beautiful Josette (Bella Heathcote).  Wildly jealous, Angelique separated the couple in a cruel watery way that resulted in Josette’s death and Barnabas’ un-death i.e. a transformation that involved long fingernails and even longer incisors.  Angry villagers, pitchforks and torches ablaze, buried the abomination.

Two centuries later, Barnabas is back and the blood flows in and out once more; into Barnabas and out of his victims, that is.  Visiting Collinwood, the campy vampire quickly persuades caretaker Willie Loomis (Jackie Earle Haley) to become his gopher using the standard-issue hypnosis capability that all vampires possess.  Barnabas does not have a reflection and will start to smoke in sunlight.  Not cigarettes – a slight combustion will commence.

The current Collins clan includes Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer) her obnoxious daughter Carolyn (Chloe Moretz) nephew David (Gulliver McGrath) and brother Roger (Jonny Lee Miller).  Boozy psychiatrist Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter) also resides with the family, and newly hired nanny Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcote), who resembles the long-gone Josette and regularly sees her ghost.

Immortal, immoral Angelique is still around as a businesswoman who has taken all of the business away from the Collins family with her Angel Bay company (fishing and canning is big in Maine).  Still craving Barnabas, the scorned, bombastic blonde tries to make life hell for him in an effort to win him back – except Barnabas already has the hellish life of a vampire and an awfully thirsty one at that.

A sex scene between the two has them wall-owing around the room, defying gravity (and cinematic logic) in an effort to gain some laughs.  The audience is also exposed to a “happening” at Collinwood, snazzy sports cars, and a soundtrack that includes The Carpenters, Barry White, T.Rex, The Moody Blues, Alice Cooper (who makes an appearance as himself) and Curtis Mayfield.

Not a harpsichord in sight.

Johnny Depp gives the pasty-faced (and pointy-haired) bloodsucker an aristocratic accent and an ongoing bewilderment about the “modern” world of electricity, television, and McDonald’s.   He creates an original Barnabas that might charm those unfamiliar with the series.  DS devotees will think him sacrilegious to the memory of Jonathan Frid.

Eva Green tears up the screen as the spurned Angelique, capturing the bile of the ancient witch with an unrequited love Jones.

Michelle Pfeiffer walks through her role with little humor but much more hair than former series matriarch (the great Joan Bennett).

Bella Heathcote, in a double role, seems to sleepwalk through both, necessary if you’re playing a ghost I suppose; it just doesn’t work for a governess.

Original series cast members make nano-second appearances (Lara Parker, David Selby, and Kathryn Leigh Scott) as does Christopher Lee, scarier here than Depp.

Director Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands) has an irreverent touch, and his film is less a resurrection than an introduction to the DS universe of his own creation and quirk.  More spoof than homage, the film is preoccupied with the customs, fashions, and kitschy culture of 1972 much more than the iconic family and their loyal, nostalgic fans, most of whom are purists who don’t want to see their anti-hero hanging upside down in a wardrobe.

While series buffs will be disappointed and possibly outraged at Burton’s liberties with the story, Burton/Depp aficionados may appreciate the odd, dark humor.

It’s just that the shadows are missing.

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