In the year 1752, Joshua and Naomi Collins, with young son Barnabas, set sail from Liverpool, England to start a new life in America. But even an ocean was not enough to escape the mysterious curse that has plagued their family. Two decades pass and Barnabas (Johnny Depp) has the world at his feet-or at least the town of Collinsport, Maine. The master of Collinwood Manor, Barnabas is rich, powerful and an inveterate playboy…until he makes the grave mistake of breaking the heart of Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green). A witch, in every sense of the word, Angelique dooms him to a fate worse than death: turning him into a vampire, and then burying him alive. Two centuries later, Barnabas is inadvertently freed from his tomb and emerges into the very changed world of 1972. He returns to Collinwood Manor to find that his once-grand estate has fallen into ruin. The dysfunctional remnants of the Collins family have fared little better, each harboring their own dark secrets. Matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer) has called upon live-in psychiatrist, Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter), to help with her family troubles.
Which movie should I review? The one which plays it pretty straight for the first forty minutes or so? Or the one which plays on comedic moments because the vampire is close to two hundred years out of his time. The movie focuses on how he reacts to things like paved roads and a McDonald’s restaurant. Not to mention his reaction to meeting a (gasp) lady doctor! It is pretty comical when he wants to get the “horses” ready to take into town and the lady of the house explains that their Chevy will work just fine.
I was one of the kids who ran home from school to watch “Dark Shadows”, the TV series, in the late sixties and early seventies (it ran from 1966 to 1971). I was intrigued with the gothic setting and the stories of vampires and werewolves, particularly the vampire played by Jonathan Frid. He played Barnabas Collins and this is the role which Johnny Depp assumes in this movie. However, Jonathan Frid and three other original cast members show up in cameos on the big silver screen. They enter Collinwood for a party with the new Barnabas (Depp) greeting them at the door. Sadly, actor Jonathan Frid died just a month ago and so truly the baton has been handed to Depp to continue as the vampire. And Depp certainly seems to “channel” Jonathan Frid at times. He is, uncannily, very much like Frid at times with his vocal overtones and expressions. It should be noted that Alice Cooper (a big “Dark Shadows” fan), shows up too. In fact, in one funny scene Barnabas says, “That Alice Cooper is the ugliest WOMAN I have ever seen!”
When I watched the TV series, you got little more than a trickle of blood on the vampire’s lips or chin. In this movie, although there are only a few biting scenes, you get a lot more gore. In fact, this is definitely a “darker” Dark Shadows all the way around, including the use of strong language and sexual innuendos and “making out” scenes between the vampire and a witch. Although the movie is certainly entertaining and even funny in spots, it definitely falls short of us being able to award it our Dove “Family-Approved” Seal. You might want to go see a family-friendly movie this weekend as this one should not be watched by a kid running home from school to head to the theater. Sadly, the innocence of the TV series is nowhere to be found in the film.