Friday, October 12, 2012

Days of Halloween Redux: Dark Shadows

2012, Tim Burton -- download

I admit it, I was not interested in seeing this movie when I first saw the trailers.  Oh, I am a Tim Burton and even a remote Dark Shadows fan but the idea of turning the 60s vampire soap opera into a spoof of 70s pop culture annoyed me.  Lo and behold, the movie actually follows the basic plot of the introduction of Barnabus Collins in the original series -- Barnabus is released from his coffin and returns to his family estate to rebuild. So, Burton is somewhat faithful in plot, but I highly doubt he is faithful in tone.

Barnabus Collins is the vampire, all pale skinned and long taloned, made so by the curse of a witch he spurned.  Despite that he has been playing around with the help, like all good wealthy land owners, he is in love with Josette.  Alas, the help turns out to be a witch and beguiles Josette into walking off a cliff.  Barnabus dives off to join her in death, but arises as a vampire. The villagers, possibly with socks on their heads but definitely with pitchforks and torches, banish him to a coffin buried deep in the earth.

Now, its the 60s and we see the once wealthy Collins are on rough times.  With the accidental release of Barnabus, by a crew of highway workers, they are saddled with not only teaching him how things are in the "modern age" but also dealing more directly with the competition, who turns out to be none other than the witch. Barnabus must deal with her while trying to resurrect his family's fortune and dealing with the uncanny resemblance the new governess has to his lost Josette. Barnabus is not only a fish out of water, a fish in another era, he also has less than savoury predilections.  I am sure nobody was going to miss those dirty hippies.  But he cares for his family and has a stash of hidden gold to assist them.  I love the ludicrous concept that a vampire is trying to raise the fortunes of a fish cannery.

This movie was just lovely to view, so rich in background and tone.  It actually carries along much better than Burton's last blockbuster, Alice in Wonderland, not truly relying on the "wooooo 1760s must now deal with the late 1960s" kitsch but really drawing on the soap opera for the plot, albeit a little more ostentatious than the dreary 60s show did.  That is, until the final act when things just seem to "lets grab EVERYTHING from the soap opera" and loses it entirely. Ghosts, vampires, witches and ... werewolfs?!?! But still, it ... looks ... spectacular.