The film starts in the year 1760, where the Collins along with their young son Barnabas leave Liverpool and travel to the United States, where they open up a fishing port in Maine. Years go by and Barnabas (Johnny Depp) grows up to be somewhat of a playboy, fooling around a servant, Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green), who is actually a powerful witch. Barnabas falls in love with Josette du Pres and rejects Angelique’s affections, but the witch doesn’t like rejection. She forces Josette to jump off a cliff, and one by one the Collins die. All but Barnabas as Angelique has cursed him into a vampire. When the town people find out about the vampire, they chain Barnabas inside a coffin and bury him.
It’s now 1972 and a young woman named Maggie Evans is arriving at the Collinwood Manor. She is running away from her haunting past and uses the name Victoria Winters as she accepts the job as David Collin’s governess.
A group of construction works stumble upon a coffin and releases the vampire Barnabas Collins, who returns to the Collinwood Manor where he meets the handyman Willie Loomis and makes him his servant. Barnabas introduces himself to the family as a distant cousin, but he does not fool the head of the household, Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (played by Michelle Pfeiffer). With no other choice, he unveils himself as their ancestor and now a cursed vampire. He wants to be a member of the family and help restore the Collins canning business, which has went under because of a competitor, Angel Bay Fishery.
Barnabas is stunned when he sees Victoria Winters as she is the split image of his long lost love Josette. He is determined to romance the young governess. The Collins doctor, who lives with them, Dr. Hoffman easily figures out that Barnabas is a vampire, and insists that she can find a cure for the curse. Out his control, Barnabas is charming to all women and Dr. Hoffman falls in love with him.
After restoring Collinwoods and the canning business, Barnabas learns that Angel Bay Fishery is owned by Angelique, who has been trying to end the Collins family line for years. She still loves Barnabas, but he still does not return her affections. Therefore, Angelique plans on destroying Barnabas and the rest of the Collins.
I went into this movie fully aware that this was a Tim Burton movie; therefore I was probably going to get a gothic comedy, in which I did. A die hard Dark Shadows fan will be disappointed that their favorite gothic drama is now a comedy, but I watched the movie for what it was, a silly gothic tale. The sets and the costumes look amazing. I thought Eve Green was miscast. Don’t get me wrong, she is a great actress and she looks the part of Angelique, but I never felt that she was truly evil. Michelle Pfeiffer looks great for her age and she does a marvelous job playing Elizabeth. Jackie Earle Haley was the best actor in this remake, putting a new spin on Willie Loomis. Johnny Depp is goofy all the way through the movie, and looks less like the 60’s Barnabas and more like an old-school vampire. Even though Barnabas is a murderer, Depp made the character funny and likeable. Now I did have some issues with Helena Bonham Carter portrayal of Dr. Hoffman, who is now a lonely drunk. I felt she was never in character and was just there to be there.
The screenplay writer Seth Grahame-Smith threw in all the Dark Shadows best with a vampire, a witch, a werewolf, and ghosts. I was disappointed that Quentin never made an appearance, but I guess that was why another Collins was a werewolf, which added nothing to the plot. I liked the small ghost storyline and the CGI special effects never bothered me. I am not for sure why Seth and Tim decided to mold Maggie Evans and Victoria Winters into one character, but it didn’t bother me one bit.
Dark Shadows is somewhat underrated as I did enjoy the movie for what it was, a fun gothic romp. It’s a better quality film that the last few Tim Burton outings. Despite a disappointing opening weekend due to the Avengers mayhem, the movie has earned over $200,000,000 worldwide on a $150,000,000 budget, not counting marketing. The movie will probably make a couple more millions of dollars before its theatrical run is over, and hopefully it will do well on DVD in fall. Even though it isn’t a major hit, I am hoping there might be a sequel due to the unnecessary cliffhanger ending. If there is a sequel, Warner Bros. should film the movie on a lower budget and a tighter script.
Dark Shadows is not perfect, but it was better than I expected.