‘Every family has its demons’ – Dark Shadows review

Tim burton has yet again returned with a dark, gothic tale overlapped with a surreal, groovy comic twist in his latest film  ‘Dark Shadows’. Not having watched the series by Dan Curtis before, I wasn’t sure what I was expecting. However, I have to admit that by watching the trailer, I was expecting more of a magick, dark spell-bounding adventure.

The film begins in the 1700’s where young Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) is cursed by the evil witch, Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green) for not giving her the love she wanted. After several vigorous punishments, she finally locks him in a coffin for more than 200 years, where he escapes with the help of the construction workers. With his goal to reunite with his ‘distant’ relatives, the narrative leads to nothing but chaos.

The quick montage of Barnabas Collins’s story at the beginning of the film was quite pleasing due to its concise length and straightforward message. Having said that, I thought that the narrative was bombarded with information, allowing the audience to get confused. The amount of narrative that Burton tried to squeeze into 113 minutes was unbelievably disappointing. Some plots here and there were unnecessary and some didn’t even have aproper cause and effect.

There were several complex narratives occurring at the same time, for example: Maggie’s(also known as Victoria) torturing childhood experience, the ghostly figure Josette constantly repeating the suicide scene, Barnabas Vs Angie, Carolyn’s howls, Dr.Julia Hoffman’s obsessive thirst for vampire blood, over-screen time of Alice cooper and more.

“I’m terribly sorry, but you can’t imagine how thirsty I am” – Barnabas Collins

I have to say that even though the plot may have been muddled at times, Johnny Depp’s acting as the undead vampire was played out very well. Barnabas’ actions were precisely executed where he became known as “the man scared of the sun” and suffocated in the “shadows”. Depp successfully creates this believable, humorous character due to his senseless behavior of the 1970’s. For example, we see him wondering around the streets confused at what roads and cars are. Some scenes where he was sleeping upside down on the curtains, napping in a box and the wardrobe, also brushing his fangs, added to the humour of his persona. This which is reinforced by the dialogue  “A women doctor, oh God what an age this is” clearly reminding us of the traditional dominant ideology in the 1700’s.

I have to say that to emphasise the genre, film setting, location and character development, the credit should definitely go to the costume designer- Colleen Atwood and the make up artists. The iconography of blood, vampire hands and nails, wolf features, ghostly costumes were very well portrayed, providing a sense of realism.

To add to this, the CGI effects and computerized graphics were astoundingly brilliant. The photography of the Witch literally cracking, Carolyn as a werewolf, the furniture coming to life, the ghostly figure glistening and much more gave the film a realistic, enthralling edge.

Angelique’s character played this wicked witch who was bitter and cold. However, some scenes made me question whether she could she keep up with Depp? I noticed that in some scenes, she over-acted. Yet, honestly speaking her stone cold facial expressions definitely motivated how she had the “heart of a devil”. However, being obsessed over Barnabas did get a little annoying after the first few curses she committed. Yet its even more frustrating when in the end you think she’s dead and suddenly you can see her breathing.

No doubt, I did think that Burton ‘attempted’ to ponder in his films ‘Beetlejuice’ and ‘Sleepy Hollow’ using the similar dark, gothic ambience but also to enhance Depp’s characters. However, I still felt that even though there was a fixed protagonist, the actual plot was missing. I think there should have been a more of a narrative, some further abrupt action scenes and most importantly, a consistent plot.

As well as being humourous, it was also quite ironic with the random ‘Mcdonalds’ sign placed in the middle of nowhere, which Barnabas described as the “Golden arches”. Critically, I thought that the product placement here was so obvious that it became irritating and unnecessary for that much focus. When you thought that was the end of it, Barnabas began talking it about it at the dining table mistaking the ‘M’ sign as the entrance to hell!

Overall I believe that the film was disappointing, especially in terms of the whole narrative, the actual story! I was expecting so much more, for it to be more adventurous, a fantasy full of unconventional, grotesque magick. However, some scenes were quite long paced, unnecessary and concealed empty shadows. Even though I enjoyed a few scenes, I thought the overall film was not as good. Too bad, I actually thought it would end up being one of my favorites.

 My rating: 5/10

Written by: Meera Darji

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