In 1760 the Collins family enters a ship to set sail from their hometown of Liverpool to find a better life and start a business in the New World. Monetarily wealthy in America they settle in the town of Collinsport, Maine and build their business and a huge home to raise their family. Years later, young Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) has grown into a lady killer, causing Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green) to fall in love with him but he in turn has fallen in love as well but not with her rather Josette DuPres (Bella Heathcote). The Witch that she is, angry and scorned Angelique not only kills his parents while walking the family dog but also casts a spell on Josette, causing her to jump off a cliff to her death. Barnabas of course cannot live without Josette so he too takes his life but before he could die Angelique turns him into a vampire causing him to live forever with the pain of Josette’s death. Soon with the help of the townspeople Barnabas and his curse are buried alive in a coffin.
Almost two centuries later, the year 1972, a young woman with an uncanny resemblance to Josette, Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcote) is riding on a train off to visit the Collinswood Estate for a Governess job. Meanwhile off in the woods a crew of construction workers unearth a coffin, open it, out pops Barnabas with a two hundred year old thirst. When Vicky arrives at the estate she first meets Willie Loomis (Jackie Earle Haley) the caretaker and eventually has her interview with Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer) she owns the house. Vicky is later introduced to the other members living in the two hundred room estate. Carolyn Stoddard (Chloe Grace Moretz) Elizabeth’s slightly dark and mysterious daughter, also Roger Collins (Jonny Lee Miller) Elizabeth’s brother and his son David (Gulliver McGrath), he see’s dead people. Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter) the resident psychiatrist is also part of the home fixtures as is Mrs. Johnson (Ray Shirley) the house cleaner or more so the dust collector.
For Barnabas after two centuries in the ground the world has changed and he soon like a newborn child begins to get adjusted to his new territory as he wonders back to his original home at Collinswood. Arriving at the front door he soon settles into the house, meeting his heritage, vowing not to hurt anyone under the roof of his home, later a broken vow and resurrecting the family business, Collins Canning Company. The direction of Depp by Burton is superb as he tries to fit in to a new life in the 1970’s and the dress, attitude, music and dialogue are perfect and enjoyable for that period. Grant it I personally remember “Dark Shadows” on television but don’t remember being an avid fan and even though this story is extremely similar it has taken the liberties of modernizing the story to a higher level of today’s technology.
Soon though a power struggle takes place between Elizabeth and the town success woman Angelique, she happens to own Angel Bay Seafood, the company that put the Collins family out of business. Little do the townspeople and boat Captains realize that she has them under her spell, a spell soon to be rivaled by her long ago love interest, now back in town, ready to get dirty, Barnabas. One problem, time seems to have reflected itself as Angelique still wants Barnabas but he wants Vicky and as for Vicky who has a sordid past she is unsure what she wants other than happiness.
All of the Collins families have always had big balls and Barnabas has decided to show the local community just how big his balls are which in the end gets out of hand exploding into a test of endurance eventually exposing that blood is thicker than water
Even though Burton has his usual signature on this film filled with dark humor, great costumes, phenomenal detail to sets and scenery I found the film a bit too long causing it to lag in spots as it approaches the end. People familiar with the television show will appreciate this film to a degree but you will not be lost at all if you haven’t seen the TV version. The writing is indeed quite good but I found Depp’s words to go unheard several times maybe due his vampire speech but overall a nicely done film that may not find its niche in the modern days of today. Either way I found the film entertaining but a bit dry at times for my taste although right in line with much of Burton’s work.
Depp who seems to always be Burton’s leading man is brilliant as always, taking on the character as if it is his alter-ego. Green does a nice job as the conniving witch but I must say her character in the end took me back to a role Meryl Streep once played with Goldie Hahn, you’ll recognize it if you see this film. Pfeiffer is always nice to look at and it’s nice to see her back on the screen but for the most part her character was a bit safe if not mechanical. Carter is always a treat since every month of the year seems like October to her if you get my drift. Haley is a delight with his bit roles in and out of the story as is Shirley, Heathcote and Miller. It is the kids that help to breathe a little more life into a dark comedic script; both Moretz and McGrath help to put a bit more bite into their bark. A worthwhile appearance by the woman himself, Alice Cooper and this film has its good moments but yet it’s not so good moments as well. A little weird, filled with intriguing photography and some ideal special effects, this film has a bit of something for everyone. Written and not quite what I expected but still a good Burton film this movie has two paws out of four by Jon Patch.