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Dark Shadows – My Review

Updated on June 7, 2012

How would you rate Dark Shadows?

4 out of 5 stars from 2 ratings of Dark Shadows
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Elizabeth Collins Stoddard

Michelle Pfeiffer as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard
Michelle Pfeiffer as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard | Source

Fantasy, horror or science fiction?

Although I am not a fan of horror movies, I have read many books over the years. The list includes H.G. Wells’ "Time Machine," "Island of Doctor Moreau," "Invisible Man," and "War of the Worlds;" Jules Verne’s "Journey to the Center of the Earth," "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea," and "Around the World in Eighty Days;" R.L. Stevenson’s "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde;" Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” and Bram Stoker’s “Count Dracula.” Not only was I interested in futuristic tales, but also in some science fiction, notably Arthur C. Clarke's “2001: A Space Odyssey,” Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World,” and George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” and “1984.” As a child, I loved reading fairy tales.

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that I have seen many movies in this genre. Amongst the most fascinating (perhaps for many of us) are the stories about vampires, witches, werewolves and warlocks! By far the most depicted character in movies is that of Count Dracula, a vampire that has been represented in film at least 170 times. It is not surprising, therefore, to note the popularity of this creature. Some of my favorite movie representations include "Love at First Bite," (Stan Dragoti – 1979) starring George Hamilton – a romantic, comedy offering; “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” – (Francis Ford Coppola – 1992) starring Gary Oldman as the menacing vampire in a Gothic, horror presentation; “Interview with the Vampire” (Neil Jordan – 1994) starring Brad Pitt; "Dracula: Dead and Loving It," Mel Brooks’ parody starring Leslie Nielsen (1995) and my list would not be complete without including the “Twilight Saga” with its shimmering vampires and loyal werewolves – first released in 2008 – based on the trilogy written by Stephenie Meyer.

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A dark and stormy afternoon...

I was looking forward to seeing this common tale of horror, mystery, comedy, and romance and as I drove my friends to see the movie, the sky was heavy with clouds as a Norther blew in, and lightning cracked as the approaching storm set the tone for the late afternoon’s entertainment. Tim Burton (Director) brings this American TV soap opera series (1966 – 1971) to the big screen with an all-star cast (Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer and Helena Bonham Carter). The original show was created by Dan Curtis. Depp is delicious in the starring role and you’ve got to hand it to him – with his Droll English accent and elegant manners reminiscent of 1750s England, he is oddly compelling as the romantic, Gothic vampire – Barnabas Collins.

Young Barnabas is taken by ship to America with his family, to build a new life. He grows up to become rich, powerful and a playboy. House maid (and witch) Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green) has her sights set on Barnabas, but her heart is broken when he falls in love with an ethereal beauty named Josette DuPres (Bella Heathcote). Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and Angelique disposes of her competition then turns Barnabas into a creature of the night and makes sure he will not be seen again!

I am not a film critic and dislike plot spoilers, so I will resume my narrative 200 years later in the 70s era, when opportunity knocks and chains to the past are broken. We discover that our vampire can become a real pain in the neck with what some might call a deadly, biting sense of humor! I found the humor entertaining and enjoyable as I watched the plot unfold! Barnabas reminded me of the late Michael Jackson in his successful evasion of sunlight and I was most amused at the variety of sleeping arrangements that he concocted. He seemed to get the hang of it! Amidst an estate which had once seen much opulence, Barnabas employs the help of the still-attractive head of the family – Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer) and also Willie Loomis (Jackie Earle Haley), the sole caretaker of the age-old estate, who cannot resist the hypnotic hands of our hero – to restore the family estate to its former glory.

Dr.Julia Hoffman

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Bella Heathcote

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Edward Scissorhands

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The Mad Hatter

The Mad Hatter from Burton's Alice in Wonderland
The Mad Hatter from Burton's Alice in Wonderland | Source

Depp, Pfeiffer, Bonham Carter and Burton

Add to this odd group, Roger Collins (Jonny Lee Miller) – Elizabeth’s shady brother; Carolyn Stoddard (Chloë Grace Moretz) – her strange teenage daughter and David Collins (Gully McGrath) – Roger’s troubled 10-year-old son, not to mention live-in psychiatrist Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter), who has her own hypnotic tricks up her sleeve, plus the arrival of a new governess, an ethereal beauty named Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcote) and this really gets the “ball” rolling.

Set amidst the fashionable 70s era, Barnabas encounters many newfangled and confusing “modern” inventions. With a real live performance by Alice Cooper himself (or is it herself?) Barnabas sets about ridding the town and his family of the supernatural charmer who has plagued them for centuries and who meets her ultimate demise in a scene vaguely reminiscent of the movie “Death Becomes Her,” (1992).

Michelle Pfeiffer is not unfamiliar with creatures of the night, having played in roles such as Catwoman in “Batman Returns,” (Tim Burton – 1992), Girlfriend to Jack Nicholson’s werewolf in “Wolf” (Mike Nicholls – 1994); and one of Jack Nicholson’s three witches in “The Witches of Eastwick,” (George Miller – 1987).

Johnny Depp and Tim Burton (Director,) have collaborated on seven movies thus far. Depp’s talent for accents and his ability to portray a wide range of characters – eccentric, romantic, sensitive, serious, dark and humorous – is a perfect fit for the type of characters Burton loves to showcase. Throw in Helena Bonham Carter for good measure, and this foursome is good to go!

Long-time Collaboration

I loved Depp’s role as the Mad Hatter in “Alice in Wonderland,” (2010). His wonderful whimsical character helps Alice on her fantastical journey through Wonderland, while Helena Bonham Carter plays the fabulously quirky Red Queen.

Depp plays an insanely warped and deadly Barber seeking vengeance in “Sweeney Todd,” (2007) a horror story based on Broadway’s successful musical. Once more, it is Helena Bonham Carter who aids him with his deadly deeds as the sinister Mrs. Lovett.

“The Corpse Bride,” (2005) an animated film, again co-starring Helena Bonham Carter, is a story in which she and Depp lend their voices to the characters of a Groom who accidentally marries a dead bride.

In “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” (2005) Depp, an eccentric candy maker, escorts a group of children around an intriguing chocolate factory. Once more, Helena Bonham Carter joins the action.

Sleepy Hollow," (1999) tells the story of Constable Ichabod Crane, who is sent to investigate a series of horrible murders, which involve decapitation and encounters the curse of the Headless Horseman at Sleepy Hollow.

In “Ed Wood,” a black and white film (1994), Depp portrays the writer and director of the same name, who had the dubious distinction of being known as the “world’s worst movie director.” He made movies during the 1950’s science fiction craze and was known for his eccentricity, cross-dressing, alcoholism and close friendship with Bela Lugosi – an actor best known for his role as Dracula.

Depp’s portrayal of “Edward Scissorhands,” (1990) is poignant and moving as this gentle and romantic creature tries to come to terms with his strange life. With scissors for hands, he navigates the world trying to create beauty, rather than destroy his surroundings. He holds us spellbound by his expressive face and body language, as our shy and unfortunate hero realizes that he does not fit in and prefers isolation to the hectic modern world out there.

Dark Shadows Trailer

Tim Burton - Johnny Depp collaboration

Which Burton-Depp Movie did you like best?

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Score

The music in this film was scored by Danny Elfman, another long-time collaborator of Burton’s. Including rock and pop songs from the 70s, Alice Cooper sings “No More Mr. Nice Guy” and “Ballad of Dwight Fry.”

The film grossed $29,685,274 in the USA, when it was released this last weekend and grossed $36,700,000 in other countries.


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    • rahul0324 profile image

      Jessee R 5 years ago from Gurgaon, India

      Great review Sue! I thought the movie was good, not great!

    • Suelynn profile image
      Author

      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Hi Rahul, nice to see you. :) Thanks for the comment. I enjoyed it, but not as much as some of his other work. :)

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

      I was so excited for this movie because I used to watch the original Dark Shadows soap opera with my mother. I was petrified, but yet still watched with hands over my eyes. Ha! The show was axed when I was 8 yrs old, I think I was relieved.

      Johnny rocked his role as Barnabas. Michelle was awesome. The entire cast were great! I enjoyed the music and jammed along!

      Excellent review. My favorite is still Edward Scissorhands.

    • Ann1Az2 profile image

      Ann1Az2 5 years ago from Orange, Texas

      Johnny Depp is one of my all time favorite actors. I still love him the most as Captain Jack Sparrow, but I loved him as the Mad Hatter, too. I'm not real crazy about some of Tim Burton's films. He's kind of a weird duck, but then, like you say, that may be why him and Johnny Depp do so well together. Great hub and well written!

    • Dolphan5 profile image

      Dolphan5 5 years ago from Warwick R.I

      I'm not a big fan of Tim Burton or Johnny Depp, However that being said your your review has made me think twice about seeing it! Thanks!

    • Suelynn profile image
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      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Hey Sunshine... so nice to see your smiling face here! :) LOVE your comments and thank you for making them. I never saw the original, it never made its way to South Africa... I can imagine it was terrifying for a young kid! Johnny was GREAT in Scissorhands!

      Ann1Az2: I don't blame you, that's for sure... he was great as Captain Jack Sparrow, but I have always had a soft spot for Alice in Wonderland (my son loved it) and his interpretation of the Mad Hatter was fantastic in my humble opinion. Thanks so much for your kind comments.

      Dolphan5, I am not sure how I feel about Burton's dark views, but his movies certainly capture artistry. You made my day with your comment - I would be interested to know how you feel if you see it. I thoroughly enjoyed the humor! :) Thanks so much for commenting.

    • profile image

      KDuBarry03 5 years ago

      Awesome review, Sue! I agree with all the information you gave in here :) voted up!

    • Suelynn profile image
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      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Thank you so much for saying, KDuBarry and I appreciate the kind comments and votes very much. :) I enjoy seeing your face pop up. I am hoping to visit your hubs again asap! Have a great weekend.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Voted this review awesome and up. With this compilation of Burton movies in the wings as comparisons, I am of the utmost strong opine that one cannot go wrong in seeing the new Dark Shadows.

    • Suelynn profile image
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      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Hi Deb, it's very good to see you. Thank you for your lovely comments and I greatly appreciate your votes. I am working this weekend, but hopefully, will be able to visit your hubs again really soon. Have a great weekend and do see the show - I recommend it. :)

    • drbillfannin profile image

      drbillfannin 5 years ago from Atlanta

      Great job. I was planning to update my hub once I saw the movie, but you have beaten me to the punch. You and I have a lot in common. I have read every book on your reading list. Most of them back in high school. I have always been a fan of classic horror and science fiction. Some of the modern stuff leaves me disappointed though. There is a trend in almost every genre to fill movies with action and special effects instead of story, acting, and directing. The classics didn't suffer from that problem. I really have to get out and see this movie. I expect it to be strange and loosely based on the TV series. Tim Burton is a director with a strange way of telling a story. Great hub. Love it.

    • Suelynn profile image
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      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Thank you for your kind comments, drbilfannin. My Dad passed today and I am flying out tomorrow for his funeral. Will pick up with everything when I return. Take care.

    • Rose West profile image

      Rose West 5 years ago from Michigan

      Good review! I have yet to see Dark Shadows, but I'm looking forward to it because I love the Burton/Depp/Carter collaboration. Thanks for giving me a taste :)

    • Suelynn profile image
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      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Rose West, I'm sure you will love it! :) I'm glad I could give you a taste and would love to have feedback when you have seen it. :)

    • mts1098 profile image

      mts1098 5 years ago from InsideTheManCave

      I did not watch the original television show but am considering seeing the movie as a fan of vampire movies...cheers

    • Suelynn profile image
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      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Hi mts1098... I never saw the original series either, but thoroughly enjoyed the movie. I hope you do, too. :)

    • Dee42 profile image

      Dee42 5 years ago from Beautiful Arkansas

      So cool. Loved it! I really like your sence of humor. And Johnny Depp is something else!

    • Suelynn profile image
      Author

      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Dee42, thanks so much for saying! :)

      Johnny is fabulous - he's played such a wide variety of characters and is super-cool. Thanks so much for commenting.

    • profile image

      Luvs1795Barn 4 years ago

      I am a "DS" viewer from Day One--summer, 1966. Barnabas Collins, majestically and brilliantly played by the late Jonathan Frid, has remained my favorite character. Since it was announced in 2007, I have been looking forward to this movie. I will tell you that I went into the theater with the notion of it being a "stand-alone" version--that helped. There were, gladly, many elements of the original television series within. The Prologue was beyond grand, though brief, and the flutes/strings of Robert Cobert's haunted original score weaved throughout Danny Elfman's sweeping mix of a ghostly siren's lament, nautical traces, riveting B-grade horrific organ playing, marching/crashing chaos, then back to the nautical. So fitting, and a key as to what was to come in this film. The train sequence with the Moody Blues' "Nights in White Satin" which, it, and the poem "Late Lament" (not featured in the film) I've always considered so reminiscent of Cobert's "Dark Shadows" scores, and so appropriate as Barnabas' epithet, was a brilliant segue into 1972. I did not mind the humor, nor the mock sexual situations, as these, and the "fish-out-of-water" themes have been incorporated into countless "DS" fan-fiction tomes ever since the show left the airwaves in 1971. There were parts that I liked more than others, and areas that could have been tweaked--and, yes, I understand about the whittling down process to bring it under two hours because the same was done to the original two films based on this series, "House of Dark Shadows" (1970), and "Night of Dark Shadows" (1971). A director's cut with deleted scenes would be most appreciated, Mr. Burton! What I missed most in this film, however, was the lack of a viable romance between Victoria/Josette and Barnabas; a balance of time should have been given between his love for the governess/heiress and his love/scorn of Angelique. There are some who say that the script was all over the place--true--but, the same can be said for the original series as it looped, weaved, meandered off course, dropped scenes and characters, even went into past times and parallel universes--all whilst in the midst of a modern day scenario! At best, the series was a hodgepodge of everything Gothic and Romantic, fueled by daytime television's low-budget dynamics and technical tensions. Like the Burton film, though to a lesser extent, the show had gorgeous sets, costuming, lighting, music, and an abundance of atmosphere--creating an almost timeless world unto itself. Unlike, the Burton film, it was deathly serious in tone, although some humorous banter (Jason McGuire, Quentin Collins) and situations (Carl Collins/Magda, the gypsy) made their way into the gloom-laden affair. Barnabas, the ever-brooding, Romantic, remained a constant. Depp's Barnabas mirrored many aspects of Jonathan Frid's performance, including the haughty stance, facial expressions of sadness, wonderment, and surprise, and eloquent diction, particularly whenever he lingered on the "S's" of words, and when he became deathly quiet as he either tormented himself, or pondered something new. Barnabas gingerly stepping out onto the asphalt road was priceless, as was his furtive saunter through Collinsport, and then up to the broken gates of Collinwood upon his first night out of the box. Depp's expression as he comes face to face with a Troll doll cracked me up. The howling wolves fireplace, the glass and wrought iron passageway to the secret treasure chamber, and Depp's exquisitely nuanced performance, therein, convinced me that this film was worthy of the mantle "Dark Shadows". It was a delight to hear whole lines from Barnabas' dealings with others that were verbatim from the series: meeting Victoria; death of Angelique. With all of this in mind, I made a point to see Burton's film as many times as possible in the theater, SIX times to be exact, and in each subsequent viewing found little treasures, either visually, or verbally, which reminded me of the unique series. You couldn't ask for a grander Collinwood, better crashing waves, or more magnificent cliff scenes. The costumes, especially Barnabas' 18th century wardrobe with the pale boots contrasted against the dark of his coachman's cloak, were much similar to those worn by he and others in the series; the neo-18th century stand-up collars and neckware on Barnabas' 1972 suits were a nod to the fashions worn by rock artists of the late '60's, early '70's, including Elvis, Procol Harum, and The Moody Blues. Collinsport was luminously brought to life via color and detail. Even the music--the soundtrack for my 15 year old self in 1972--made perfect sense. This was what was happening, then, and Burton nailed it. What better way to end the madness than with a version of The Raspberries' "Go All the Way", as performed by The Killers, for that was what Victoria wanted Barnabas to do, there at the end, through the immortal bite. In the credits there was listed a 'Barnaby Smyth', and a 'Barnaby Riggs' as either foley artist or set crafters; were they real or homage to Sharon Smyth (Barnabas' little sister Sarah), and 1795 servant, Riggs? So many little details to look out for that made this film enjoyable.

      Your rating of this movie reflects all of the above for me; I enjoyed your review and supplemental information regarding Depp, Carter, et al., immensely.

    • Suelynn profile image
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      Suelynn 4 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Hi Luvs795Barn: What glorious comments! I so enjoyed reading your review, which highlighted many facts for me - as I was a total newcomer to the movie. I had not seen the television series, but I couldn't agree more that subsequent viewings would highlight many missed gems! When the movie is released on DVD, I will definitely view with a new eye. Thank you for your high praise - it is greatly appreciated. :)

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