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Dark Shadows - Film Review

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American auteur Tim Burton sinks his teeth into the vampire genre with Dark Shadows.

Based on the cult 1960s American gothic soap opera of the same name, Dark Shadows stars Burton's frequent collaborator, Johnny Depp, as Barnabas Collins, an 18th century vampire who is accidentally awakened in early 1970s small-town America.

Steeped in high romance and dark humour, Dark Shadows marks Burton's first foray into the popular sub-genre of vampire films.

Since Bram Stoker's classic vampire tale, Dracula, released in 1879, vampire mythology has been a pop culture staple. One of the first notable vampire films was the landmark 1922 German Expressionist horror film Nosferatu, directed by F. W. Murnau. Nosferatu is an unlicensed adaptation of Dracula, which depicts the vampire, Count Orlok, portrayed by Max Schreck, as a parasite creature with an arched forehead, protruding teeth and pointed rat like ears. However, over the years, the vampire has continuously been reinvented on the screen, notably portrayed by the likes of Bela Lugosi, Klaus Kinski, Christopher Lee, Frank Langella and Gary Oldman, and today, the vampire has developed into something of a lothario – as depicted in the popular Twilight Saga, and the Vampire Diaries and True Blood television series.

With Dark Shadows, Burton attempts to reinvent the vampire film once again for modern audiences, by making Barnabas, the vampire at the centre of the melodrama, a dangerous yet sympathetic outsider – not so dissimilar from Burton's other archetypal characters, such as Edward Scissorhands. Burton is of course no stranger to the horror genre, having previously directed the supernatural comedy horror Beetlejuice, the period horror film Sleepy Hollow and horror musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, and with Dark Shadows, the American director not only attempts to direct a big screen adaptation of the revolutionary soap opera that both he and Depp were great fans of, but he also simultaneously pays tribute to the Hammer films that greatly influenced him, particularly the string of horror films which starred Christopher Lee as Count Dracula.

JOHNNY DEPP as Barnabas Collins in Warner Bros. Pictures' and Village Roadshow Pictures' gothic comedy "DARK SHADOWS,


Dark Shadows opens in 1760, with Joshua and Naomi Collins and their son, Barnabas. The young family, who have sailed from Liverpool to North America to begin a new life, set up a successful fishing business in Maine and establish the town of Collinsport. As the years pass, Barnabas becomes a young man who is regarded as a wealthy playboy by the townspeople. He makes an enemy of Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green), a maidservant, after he ends their brief affair and declares he intends to marry Josette du Pres (Bella Heathcote), his one true love. Unbeknownst to Barnabas, Angelique is secretly a witch and she kills his mother and father in revenge and curses his family. Angelique then turns Barnabas into a vampire and he is captured by the townspeople and buried in the local woods.

In 1972, Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcote) travels to Collinsport, to become the Governess to a troubled young boy named David Collins (Gulliver McGrath). She arrives at the once grand Collinwood Manor, which is now in ruins. The manor is now home to a collection of Barnabas' oddball distant relatives, à la The Addams Family – family matriarch, Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer), Elizabeth's sleazy brother, Roger Collins (Jonny Lee Miller) and his son David, and Elizabeth's rebellious teenage daughter, Carolyn Stoddard (Chloë Grace Moretz). Also residing at the Collinwood Manor is the alcoholic live-in psychologist, Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter), the manor's caretaker, Willie Loomis (Jackie Earle Haley) and the elderly maid, Mrs. Johnson (Ray Shirley).

That night, a group of construction workers accidentally unearth Barnabas' coffin. Confused after 200 year slumber, Barnabas makes his way to the manor and finds that an eternally youthful Angelique is now a successful and respected resident of Collinsport who has set up a rival fishing business, which has left his own family business penniless.

With the help of his family, Barnabas sets about restoring his family's fortune and name.

Whilst Dark Shadows is true to its melodramatic origins and is centred on the romantic triangle between Barnabas, Angelique and Josette/Victoria, Burton has made a bold decision to include period satire, with much of the humour centred on Barnabas' Nixon era culture shock. Dark Shadows even features an inspired soundtrack of 1970s rock and pop hits by the likes of The Carpenters, Barry White, Iggy Pop, T.Rex and even Alice Cooper, makes a cameo appearance.

Dark Shadows has largely been praised by film critics for its visual style and comedic edge and Depp, who relished the role of Barnabas, has once again created another classic tragic Burton character. Nostalgic, playful and a knowing spectacle - Dark Shadows is a throwback to Burton's earlier works, in particular the sci-fi parody Mars Attacks!

In addition to Dark Shadows, Burton has a second directorial effort to be released later this year – the anticipated stop motion animated film, Frankenweenie, which pays homage to the 1931 monster film, Frankenstein.

Burton also co-produced the horror action film Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, which will be released in late 2012.

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Why? American auteur Tim Burton sinks his teeth into the vampire genre with Dark Shadows.
Where: In cinemas now
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