I always thought there was something missing from Tim Burton’s films… and last night I realized it was Alice Cooper. Well, now that he has a prominent cameo in Burton’s latest, Dark Shadows, I am still far from happy. It is not because I expected much from a vampire film based on a TV series, but I just hoped for a better script.
Dark Shadows is a vampire comedy about Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp), who returns to his hometown of Collinsport almost two centuries after he had been bewitched and buried alive by an ex-servant-turned-entrepreneur, Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green). Apart from the celebrity cast that includes Michele Pfeiffer and Helena Bonham Carter, the story is unfortunately not too exciting.
Cameo appearances such as Christopher Lee’s and the cast from…
The tried and tested plot lines, such as a struggle between passion and love, a clash between past and present, and family ties above corporate interests are all too exploited dichotomous oppositions that seem, to me, to have long ago been stripped of their moral or comic potential. Certainly, Barnabas marvelling at asphalt roads and 70s rock music, yellow-clawed dragons (tractors) and lava lamps, etc. would have been more fun had this been the first film of its genre (remember Poiré’s Just Visiting).
For those who are sworn vampire or Burton fans, you can amuse yourself counting the numerous intertextual references in the film. Cameo appearances such as Christopher Lee’s and the cast from the original TV show Dark Shadows, on which the film is based, are quite frequent so if you suffer from cinephilia like me, that will keep you entertained.
…a predictable chain of events is not nearly as impressive…
Despite my overall dissatisfaction, I must point out that the sets were quite impressive and detailed. Having decided to physically build the town of Collinsport as well parts of the mansion (apparently not the CGI bits), Rick Heinrichs does an outstanding job as productions designer. The detailed interiors, including a real canning line, create a believable and visually stunning environment. Combined with the special effects and good camerawork, the sets literally come to life.
Unfortunately, the uninteresting storyline of a predictable chain of events is not nearly as impressive as star cast or the designs. If you are a hardcore vampire film fan, Dark Shadows will probably disappoint you. But if you are simply looking for a way to kill time on Friday night, this is your film since it is certain to not keep your mind busy for long after.