Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have collaborated on eight films from "Edward Scissorshands" to the newest release "Dark Shadows". They work well together, though not as well as Robert DeNiro and Martin Scorsese who managed a little more critical acclaim. I am a huge fan of the Depp/Burton team and always circle the release dates of their films.


I was also a fan of the dark soap opera Dark Shadows when it graced the boob tube. It came on after school, but it was a rush if my pesky teachers went on too long; nevertheless it always provided something to chat about the next day in school. Barnabus Collins was very cool and why shouldn't we know the day-to-day lives of a family with a vampire? It lasted about five years and ended in 1971; though thankfully for reruns it continued on through the 70s.


There was an attempt to revive the series in the 90s that was a utter failure. the only good thing that came out of it was a little know actor, at the time, named Joseph Gordon Levitt who played the Collin's family boy David.

After watching the trailers for the new "Dark Shadows" film, I was almost giddy with excitement - Depp and Burton were going to turn it into a comedy. This was, in my mind, very doable. The concept of a comedic vampire movie was justified by George Hamilton's 1979 farce "Love at First Bite". Truly Depp would channel a lot of his Captain Jack Sparrow character into Barnabus and have people rolling in the aisles.


But those trailers are very misleading; after all this is also a Tim Burton film - and he loves things dark. So what we get is a film that seems to be a struggle between comedy and darkness.


It begins in 1752 with the Collins family moving to Maine to develop a fish processing business and in the end building a town around their good fortune. A fortune good enough to build a magnificent mansion overlooking their namesake town of Collinsville. But after the playboy heir Barnabas infuriates a chambermaid/witch named Angelique (Eva Green) she curses he, the family and the love of his life Josette DuPres (Bella Heathcote). Most are condemned to death, Barnabas she turns into a vampire.


Note: According to my friend who deals in the occult, witches have been know to turn people into vampires.

Angelique manages to turn the townspeople against Barnabus after which they bury him alive in a heavily chained coffin.


Fast forward to 1972 (one year after the TV show Dark Shadows went off the air), the mansion is a mess, the Collins family business is all but gone due to Angelique, and the current Collins family are dysfunctional.


During some groundwork near the town McDonald's, Barnabus Collins coffin is unearthed and opened after which he escapes and sucks the blood out of those who freed him. When he returns to Collinwood (the mansion) he introduces himself to the family and vows to restore the family business and name.


The matriarch of the family Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (played by the ever-so-lovely Michelle Pfeiffer) is the only one who knows he is a vampire and keeps his confidence. She is mother to Carolyn (Chloe Grace Moretz) who is a bit off-kilter herself - later we find out why. Her brother in-law is ne'er-do-well Roger Collins (Jonny Lee Miller) who is a money grubbing worthless father to young David Collins (Gulliver McGrath) who says he sees ghosts. In particular the ghost of his dead mother. He is being tended to by a psychiatrist named Dr Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter) who lives in the mansion and is also an alcoholic. A governess named Victoria (also played by Bella Heathcote) looks after David and presumably Carolyn. To round out the household is groundskeeper/handyman Willie Loomis (Jackie Earle Haley) whom Barnabas immediately puts under a trance.


The power broker in town is now Angelique thus setting up a constant battle with Barnabas. Especially after Barnabas falls for Victoria who looks amazingly like his lost love Josette.


Depp is without a doubt perfect as Barnabas Collins though I was surprised the film is not as comical as I thought it might be. Pfeiffer and Bonham Carter are also perfectly cast as two strong women of the household. The use of singer Alice Cooper is pure genius! Eva Green has her moments as Angelique and her wrath is understood. After all, would any man actually choose the waif Bella Heathcote over her? I think not. And that is one of the flaws in the film. The other being that at no time did Angelique come off as undefeatable by Barnabas especially. So you wonder why he just doesn't kill her!


I would have also like to see a better use of Haley, who was well cast in his role, but his role far too small - though he does well with it. I also would have like to have seen more

of Pfeiffer, not just because she's gorgeous, but because there should have been more interaction between her and Barnabas and her and Angelique.


"Dark Shadows" is a well made film with a great soundtrack, despite it's shortcomings. Shortcomings that may be straightened out in the sequel. The question is will it make enough to have a sequel - only the shadows know!   -- GEOFF BURTON