Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Dark Shadows

Like a creepy Rip Van Winkle, Barnabas Collins wakes from a 200-year-long sleep into 1972 in Tim Burton's latest film.
Inhabited by Johnny Depp, we're treated to a different kind of Barnabas Collins, and a different kind of vampire. He's very thirsty, as you can imagine, and in his first awakening scene, we see him devour the blood of the crew that discovers him. But he's not as crass as you might think this act would make him. He's a snob, he's an aristocrat. He's, well, a gentleman.
Barnabas is a breath-of-fresh-air even though the air around him is rather old, in that he's different from this flower-power, hippie world he's found himself in. He tells the truth, unlike every single member of the family in his dilapidated mansion. The only one who can match him in this world, and this film, is Michelle Pfeiffer, who still has this unearthly beautiful look about her, and who looks almost as stiff as that guy in the coffin.
The movie isn't quite up to the level of these two fine performances. Burton keeps hammering at us that it's the early '70's by throwing music at us from the times, like the incongruous pairings of Top of the World (Carpenters) with No More Mister Nice Guy (Alice Cooper). Plus, he throws in things like lava lamps, disco balls, and mini-skirts, none of which has anything to do with moving the plot along. There is a story here, but it's lost in Barnabas' meanderings throughout what used to be his world.
You'd think Burton would know how to set up a joke, and finish it off. He does neither well here. Lines are just thrown about, and laughs rarely follow. Still, how Depp delivers a line is immaculate. He caresses every word, as if it's his last. He's almost an old English gentleman, and everybody loves him for it. Never mind that he leaves a trail of blood wherever he goes.
I should also mention that I do like Eva Green's impersonation of a witch. Delightfully, deliciously evil. And a good match for the innocence and good of Barnabas Collins.
Thumb's up for another amazing transformation by Johnny Depp. His Barnabas Collins doesn't at all remind you of Jonathan Frid, who has a small cameo here (right before he died, sadly), but is endearing and fresh.


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