So I'm reminded of the phrase, "It's only a movie."
We used to say that, once upon a time, when we were seated in the theatre watching a movie and they were about to do a reveal on the Big Scary Monster of the piece, or the hero was in dire straits, or something was coming up behind that particular scene's victim and was about to take them out. In the Technological Age, we don't say that anymore because these days we're All Connected and such, and we blog about Things and read reviews and make decisions and generally Act Like Adults about things that used to thrill and terrify us. But the Child Inside still remembers how we used to feel, sitting there in dark shadows watching flickering pictures on a screen, and the thrills we got and that wonderful feeling of being a part of something, of personal enjoyment, of being all connected. The Technological Age, for all of its connectedness and innovations, has failed to properly capture this feeling for us, and because of this we demand much, much more accountability from our entertainment than we used to.
|Barnabas The First (Jonathan Frid)|
|"Are they kidding?"|
For my part, while I love Dark Shadows and always have, I cannot call myself a fan in the same spirit that the film's decriers do. Dark Shadows achieved legendary status for me due to my not having ever seen it in my youth, but constantly hearing about it from older family members who had seen some of the show's original run. Ye Reviewer is currently enjoying the series through Netflix, and I can say without reservation that despite it falling victim to the usual disliked soap-opera conventions, it is every bit worth watching and deserving of its legendary status.
At this point, some people will be saying "yeah, well, when your favorite thing gets remade into a big crappy movie, you'll change your tune." For me, that has already happened. Saw Scooby-Doo; hated it, but the sequel got it right. Saw Star Trek; didn't exactly dislike it, but the Star Trek Universe represented there seemed mighty homogenized compared to the original series, and the whole timeline-reboot sequence was obviously shoehorned in because the writers ran out of plot. Still refuse, to this day, to watch Gus Van Sant's remake of Psycho, and if I ever meet the guy I'm probably going to jail. So I do understand your pain and what you are talking about.
|"Okay, people, hear me out..."|
Much of the original DS backstory is told in the first few minutes of the movie, which shows the Collins family arriving from England in 1760 and establishing themselves as founders and favorite sons of Collinsport, Maine. The eldest son, Barnabas (Depp), completes the building of his family's palatial estate of Collinwood and becomes something of a playboy, getting caught in a love triangle between housemaid Angelique Bouchard (Green) and his true love, Josette DuPres (Heathcote). Unfortunately, Angelique proves to be a witch, and Barnabas's refusal of her love dooms the Collins family and Josette. Angelique casts a spell that kills Barnabas's parents, curses the Collins family and sends Josette over the cliffs at Widow's Hill, then curses Barnabas as a vampire. She then turns the townsfolk of Collinsport against Barnabas, who bury him in a chained coffin in the woods.
|Creepy, spooky, mysterious, dysfunctional: the Collins family|
|"No Happy Meal toys, eh? That's regrettable..."|
|"I am Collins... hear me roar."|
|"Hey, can you blame me? Vampires are cool."|
|Queen Wasp: Angelique|
|Honey Bee: Victoria/Maggie/Josette (?)|
The mood of the original is well-captured in staging and sets, demonstrating Burton's quirky-Goth sensibilities while not burying the source material beneath them. Like the original, Dark Shadows the movie is its own world, and the settings of Collinsport and Collinwood, despite the 70's period pastiches, give every appearance of being well off the beaten path. Longtime Burton collaborator Danny Elfman's score adds the usual deliciously dark flavor to the film, even using a bit of original DS score (sharp-eared fans will catch Robert Cobert's "The Secret Room" cue at the beginning and in other places through the film).
|"Yes, I'm completely serious."|
And despite what anyone wants to say, it's hardly a parody of the original. We have had vampires and other supernatural creatures in the pop-culture consciousness for at least a millennium now, and while Burton's Dark Shadows digs no new ground in the vampire legend (and neither did the original), this film does nothing to make fun of the show or its fanbase. If it spoofs anything, it spoofs the deadly, unhealthy seriousness and quest for realism we have attached to supernatural and horrific entertainment by setting classical Gothic melodrama in the 1970's, a time when pop-culture completely lacked the ability to be serious about anything. In this age when we are demanding more from our sources of entertainment than our presidential candidates, we could use a little of those high spirits today, and Burton's Dark Shadows may hold the key to that. Go see it with an open mind, and then indulge heavily in the original. You might find yourself joining Team Barnabas after all. And besides, it's only a movie.
There you go.
|"With animosity toward none."|