Josh Wilding Reviews: DARK SHADOWS

Josh Wilding Reviews: DARK SHADOWS

Dark Shadows has been met with mixed reviews and is expected to be overshadowed by Marvel's The Avengers at the US box office this weekend. So, is it worth checking out? Hit the jump for my spoiler-free take.

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...

Tim Burton’s latest live action film sees him once again team with Johnny Depp (and a few other regulars) for Dark Shadows, a fun and beautifully shot horror/comedy hybrid. Despite what has been shown in the various trailers and TV spots, it’s actually surprisingly light on laughs, not because the jokes fall flat, but because there’s a really good story on offer here and some genuinely creepy moments. Due to the fact that it ventures into some pretty grown up territory every now and again, parents may want to think twice about taking along younger children. The story is straightforward enough, and while there’s a one or two quite strange developments in climax of the film (one of which seems to exist solely to give Moretz something to do) it never gets boring. It could have perhaps done with being a little bit shorter however. Burton has created a damn good looking film, and even those who haven’t enjoy the director's past work are sure to find something to love here. It helps that Seth Grahame-Smith's screenplay (from a story written by John August) is so good and the characters all so unique and interesting. It also contains one of the most offbeat sex scenes ever...

Johnny Depp brings the weird and eccentric Barnabas Collins to life wonderfully, never going so over the top that he ends up alienating the audience. Instead, he manages to create a sympathetic and deep character whose quirks make him endearing rather than tedious (unlike in some of his past team-ups with Tim Burton such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). Eva Green is delightfully wicked as the evil Angelique, stealing scene after scene, and she’s so absolutely smoking hot, it’s amazing that the screen doesn’t catch fire quicker than Barnabus when he wanders into the sunlight. Despite not being featured as heavily in the promotion of the film as the other cast members, Bella Heathcote (Victoria Winters) is fantastic and serves as the most relatable character who, like us, is looking in at this bizarre family from the outside. Chloe Moretz (Carolyn Stoddard) goes slightly over the top with her performance, but this actually serves to show how talented she really is. Both Helena Bonham Carter (Dr. Julia Hoffman) and Michelle Pfieffer (Elizabeth Collins Stoddard) deliver the kind of quality performances we’ve come to expect from them, but the talents of Johnny Lee Miller (Roger Collins) are unfortunately wasted. Jackie Earle Haley (Willie Loomis) and Gulliver McGrath (David Collins) do well in helping to round out the cast. Keep your eyes peeled for a couple of great cameos too.

Dark Shadows is a great looking film, and finds a nice balance between gothic horror and a stylistic (yet incredibly authentic) 1970s setting. Collinwood Manor looks thoroughly great, while the gnarly trees and creepy exterior really add a level of believability to the location while simultaneously maintaining Burton's trademark style. The stark contrast in colour created through the use of such 70s staples as the McDonalds logo and lava lamps in the town of Collinsport really helps this film visually pop off of the screen, as does the fantastic costume design. The film will undoubtedly look absolutely amazing when it’s released on high-definition Blu-ray. Being set in the 1970s setting also gives director Tim Burton the opportunity to use some great music from that era, and combined with Danny Elfman’s score, Dark Shadows ends up being a pleasure to listen to as well as to watch. The visual effects are also pretty flawless, and it’s hard to find any fault with the film in that respect. If it does falter at all, it's with a few of the character's motivations, but this is a fairly minor complaint all in all.

It's not perfect by any means, but Dark Shadows deserves to do well in a weekend where it's unlucky enough to be overshadowed by Earth's Mightiest Heroes. Sequel? Yes please.

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