Welcome to A-Z Movie Reviews. Every Sunday, for the next several months, I will be posting a review of a film in my home movie collection. How it works is, I will be reviewing movies in alphabetical order until I get to the letter Z (Yes, I do have a film that ends in Z). Now I realize there are many ways to alphabetize a film collection but this is mine so don’t judge me. This is simply for fun.
Ever since I was a kid, I have been a fan of vampires. I have my mom to thank for this. Years ago, she introduced me to the Dark Shadows series from Dan Curtis which aired from 1966-1971. I can’t even remember how old I was the first time I saw it, but I was intrigued by Barnabas played by Jonathan Frid. Dark Shadows was an old show but for me it was exciting to watch because it was the first time I saw paranormal beings on screen. I say all this to let you know that I was extremely excited when I found out Dark Shadows was being turned into a movie and Johnny Depp one of my favorites would be starring as Barnabas.
It is a delightful coincidence to be reviewing this movie right now because well, it’s October and I can’t think of anything better than a vampire movie during spooky season.
What it’s about:
An imprisoned vampire, Barnabas Collins, is set free and returns to his ancestral home, where his dysfunctional descendants are in need of his protection.
I love Tim Burton’s films because they are always entertaining. He takes stories and just adds something so whimsical that stays with you after the credits have rolled. The first film of his I saw was Edward Scissorhands with Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder and I loved it. I was already a fan of Johnny’s by then so it was a no-brainer for me to keep checking out Tim’s films that he was in. The two of them work together so well. I have always said as long as Tim Burton is around making films, Johnny will always have a job. He’s basically been in almost every film he’s done. Their collaboration on Dark Shadows was one of the absolute best things ever.
I love so many things about this film so let’s discuss.
The cast: I can’t say enough great things about the cast because there are so many talented actors in this film. Michelle Pfeiffer, Eva Green, Helena Bonham Carter, Jonny Lee Miller, Bella Heathcote, Chloe Grace Moretz, and of course as I already mentioned, Johnny Depp. Johnny has an incredible ability to transform in all of his roles and that’s one of my favorite things about him. Whenever he’s onscreen in whatever the role is, you don’t see Johnny, you see the character he is supposed to be. I love the way that he brought Barnabas to life in his own way.
Eva Green as Angelique Barnaba’s scorned lover who happens to be a witch, was also one of my favorites. She had multiple transformations in the movie and went through lots of different emotions. Her love for Barnabas makes her do a lot of crazy things and you feel bad for her because when you really think about it, Barnabas used her so it’s no surprise the type of things she does. To her, everything is for love and she just can’t get over him.
While I’m talking about the cast, I need to mention the awesome cameos. The original Dark Shadows cast members, Jonathan Frid (Barnabas), Lara Parker (Angelique), Kathryn Leigh Scott (Maggie), and David Selby (Quentin Collins) all appear during the big party scene and our new Barnabas Johnny Depp greets them. There is also a cameo from one of the original Dracula’s, Christopher Lee who plays a fisherman that Barnabas hypnotizes.
The costumes: Costume designer Colleen Atwood did an amazing job with everyone’s looks. The first part of the film takes place in 1760 and the remainder in 1972 so the clothes had to be designed for both of those time periods. One of the great things that Colleen did with Barnabas’s look was keeping little touches from his original time and adding them into his more modern looks. I also loved the outfits worn by Chloe Grace Moretz because they were full on 70s with bright colors and patterns that stood out.
The music: As I said, Dark Shadows takes place in the 70s, so all the music had to be from the 70s. There is everything from one of my favorites The Carpenters to Alice Cooper. Music always adds to film and every song fit perfectly in each scene and they all set the mood.
The set: Okay finally, the set design. This set is just incredible! I am obsessed with cinematography and set design and Dark Shadows is a masterpiece for the eyes. I watched the special features and was just speechless by what production designer Rick Heinrichs and the whole team came up with. They built the entire town of Collinsport and to create the fishing port, a water tank was built that the boats were floating on. Collinwood, where the family’s estate is, was also built. Seriously, I love this stuff. Movie magic excites me because it is so cool to see the kinds of things set designers can do. It takes extreme skill to do something like that and I would have loved to see this in person and walk on the dock and look at the water.