tek's rating: ¼

Dark Shadows (PG-13)
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This is based on a 1960s supernatural soap opera, which was of course before my time. I saw a very little bit of it on Sci-Fi Channel, sometime in either the late 90s or early 00s, I forget exactly. I'm fairly sure what I saw couldn't have been from the beginning, but I don't remember any details. All I really remember was thinking it was kind of ridiculous and lame, though I really wanted to like it, and I still wouldn't mind someday giving it a chance, if I can watch it from the beginning. Anyway, I have friends who were fans of the show, and dreaded this 2012 theatrical reimagining (which is far more of a comedy than the original). But I still wanted to check it out, because it's directed by Tim Burton, and it has a bunch of stars I like (Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Chloe Moretz, Jackie Earle Haley, Jonny Lee Miller, etc.)

Anyway, the movie starts in Liverpool in 1760. Barnabas Collins was a young boy when he moved with his family to Maine, hoping to expand their financial empire. They built a major fishing company, and the town of Collinsport grew up around them. They built a mansion called Collinwood, which took fifteen years. Now an adult, in 1775, Barnabas was having an affair with a maid named Angelique (Eva Green). But when he told her he didn't love her, she used black magic to cause the (apparently accidental) death of Barnabas's parents. This prompted him to start studying the occult, himself. But he fell in love with a woman named Josette, which of course made Angelique jealous. So she cursed Josette to throw herself off a cliff to her death. She also cursed Barnabas to become a vampire (which I'm pretty sure is not how people become vampires, but whatevs). And then she turned the townsfolk against him, and they buried him alive (or undead, whatevs).

Flash forward to 1972. A young woman named Maggie Evans (Bella Heathcote, who also played Josette) travels from New York to Collinsport, taking on the name Victoria Winters, for some reason. She moves into Collinwood to become the governess of young David Collins, whose mother died at sea when he was five. Other residents of Collinwood include David's father, Roger (Miller, though I didn't even recognize him); Roger's sister, Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Pfeiffer); Elizabeth's teenage daughter, Carolyn (Moretz); David's psychiatrist, Dr. Julia Hoffman (Bonham Carter); the mansion's cartaker, Willie Loomis (Haley); and an elderly maid named Mrs. Johnson. The Collinses no longer have anywhere near the money they did 200 years ago. But soon, construction workers unexpectedly unearth Barnabas's coffin, from which he bursts forth and drinks all their blood. He then wanders through a much-changed Collinsport, making his way to Collinwood. He hypnotizes Loomis to become his servant, then enters his former home. Elizabeth doesn't trust him, at first (how could she believe he was a 200-year-old vampire?) but he shows her a hidden room full of treasure, which she wants to keep secret. And so she decides to pass him off as "Barnabas Collins III," visiting from England, and he intends to help restore the family's failing business.

The Collinses' slow financial deterioration was caused by a rival fishing company called Angel Bay, run by a woman named Angie... who is actually Angelique. She's spent the last two centuries working to destroy the Collinses, but her plans are now threatened by the return of Barnabas. So the two of them once more become bitter enemies, though she still mainly just wants him to love her. Meanwhile, he falls in love with Victoria, who has a tragic backstory (basically, she can see ghosts, something she has in common with David). But it's probably mainly because of her resemblance to Josette that Barnabas falls for her. Meanwhile, when Dr. Hoffman discovers that Barnabas is a vampire, she promises to help restore his humanity with blood transfusions. And um... I guess there was lots of stuff going on, but most of it was underdeveloped. I don't so much mind the extraneous subplots, though, because it fits the serial nature of the source material... it's just that there isn't really time in a movie to do it justice. (Then again, I'm pretty sure the original series had way more episodes than it needed, and this comes much closer to being the proper length to tell a good story. It probably would have been better as a miniseries, to give all the characters more time and significance.) The end makes it seem like there could be a sequel, which I wouldn't mind seeing, but I very much doubt there will be one.

Anyway, the movie had lots of good visuals, and it was all rather nicely atmospheric. Some of the humor I liked, and some of it not so much. And as easy as it is to root against Angelique, I never quite rooted for Barnabas. (Yes, I feel bad that he had no choice about killing people, and that he felt bad about it, but... he didn't seem to feel as bad about it as plenty of other vampires I've seen.) There were a couple of cool cameos, from Christopher Lee and Alice Cooper. And I guess the original Barnabas, Jonathan Frid, was in one scene, though I'm afraid I didn't notice him. (There were few other people from the old show in that scene, but I wouldn't have recognized them, anyway.) And there was some decent 70s music. And... I dunno what else to say. The movie was enjoyable to watch, but not something I could quite manage to care about. I guess even tales told by cinematic geniuses can still be full of sound and fury, and yet signify nothing. Oh wells.

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