31 horror movies in 31 days: Dark Shadows

Unknown   I love camp. I love Johnny Depp. I love Tim Burton. This film is the perfect blend of all three. Plus, I thought it would be fun to throw something different in the mix. Some might not consider the 2012 version of Dark Shadows a horror movie by traditional standards….it’s more like horror with a sense of humor. Let’s just call it Horror-Lite.

Yes, I just made that up.

The film revolves around the Collins family. Together with his parents, Barnabas Collins came to America from England in the 18th century. The family spent the next several decades building their fortune in the fishing and canning industry. They became so successful they named the tiny little town in Maine after them. Above Collinsport, they built a mansion they called Collinswood. As Barnabas grew older and more dashing, their servant Angelique fell desperately in love with him. But that love was never requited. Barnabas was already in love with a woman named Josette.

Filled with jealousy and rage, Angelique, whom we soon learn is a powerful witch, kills Barnabas’ parents, forces Josette to commit suicide, and puts a curse on Barnabas, turning him into a vampire so he would suffer forever in an immortal body. She then locks him in a box and buries him in a forest.

Fast forward to 1972. Barnabas is dug up by construction workers, whom he quickly kills for their blood to regain strength. Thrown off by the new modern Collinsport, he makes his way back to Collinswood, where he meets a new generation of the Collins family. The matriarch is Elizabeth, who is very leery of Barnabas at first, until he proves whom he is by showing her a hidden room filled with treasure. Relieved that her financial worries might be over, she agrees to let him stay. She tells Barnabas how Collinswood has gone to disarray and the family business was ruined by a competitive company named Angel Bay Seafood. He vows to help her rebuild the business and restore the Collins name.

That night at dinner, Barnabas meets the rest of the family; Elizabeth’s daughter, Carolyn, her brother Roger and his son David, David’s alcoholic therapist Dr. Hoffman, the new governess, Victoria.

When he sees Victoria, he is shocked at how much she looks like his beloved Josette. He’s convinced she has been reincarnated and discreetly attempts to win her affections, hoping for a second chance at love.

In the meantime, he meets the owner of Angel Bay Seafood. He is shocked to see that it is Angelique herself. After playing a political and sexual game of back-and-forth (which includes one of the most violently erotic love scenes I’ve ever seen), Barnabas once again refuses to comply with any of her wishes. She threatens him to either become partners with her or she will destroy him. After crashing a ball at Collinswood, she catches Barnabas and Victoria kissing, which throws her into a fit of jealousy once again. She sets fire to the Collins’ canning building and tries to turn the townspeople against them.

All the while, Dr. Hoffman discovers Barnabas’ secret of being a vampire. She convinces him she has a way of making him mortal again through a serious of blood transfusions. Eventually Barnabas finds out that she was stealing his blood and using it to make herself immortal. He kills her without hesitation and dumps her body in the ocean.

Back at Collinswood, Angelique shows up with the sheriff to have Barnabas arrested. A bloody physical battle takes place, not only outing Angelique as a witch, but also Carolyn as a werewolf. Elizabeth, the only mortal in the room at this point, attempts to stop the fight with a shotgun. It’s not until David’s deceased mother (whom Angelique murdered) shows up and violently throws Angelique into the chandelier. Literally cracked and falling apart, Angelique reaches into her chest and pulls out her heart, offering it to Barnabas. He refuses.

Realizing that Victoria is missing, he eventually finds her headed towards the same cliff where Josette had jumped from centuries ago. Seconds too late, Victoria falls from the cliff, with Barnabas right behind her. In mid-air, he bites her in the neck, knowing the only way to possibly save her was to make her immortal like him.

Does it work? Do they survive? Do they live happily ever after?

Yea, I’m a tease – not going to tell you. Watch it for yourself.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Recommendation: I knew going in that being a Tim Burton film, it was going to be heavy on the campy side, with a bit of mayhem covered in grey cinematography served with a side of quirky (and of course tons of Helena Bonham Carter.) But I didn’t expect to be pleasantly entertained at the same time. And it’s all due to Mr. Depp’s performance. As usual. Like most of his roles, he completely consumes a character and makes it his own. Even when he fakes an accent, he does it spot on. His makeup job alone is enough to make a makeup junkie like me drool. I consider this is a piece of fluff with violent tendencies. Keep your mind open for 90 minutes and you’ll love it.

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