At the Movies: Family devotion is eternal in ‘Dark Shadows’ |

At the Movies: Family devotion is eternal in ‘Dark Shadows’

Centuries-old vampire Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) tries in vain to resist the seduction of witch Angelique (Eva Green) in "Dark Shadows." The movie, a big screen remake of the 1960s gothic soap opera, is about an industrialist from colonial America who is cursed with immortality and awakens 200 years later to reclaim his family's honor.

"Dark Shadows"

2.5 out of 4 stars

113 minutes

Starring: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter and Eva Green

Now playing at the West Theatre and at Steamboat Springs' Metropolitan Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.

Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Ichabod Crane, Willy Wonka, Sweeney Todd, the Mad Hatter — they all basically boil down to the same character, a pale eccentric who's just a few steps out of sync with the rest of the world.

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Just when you thought we'd seen the last of him, that archetype rises once again in "Dark Shadows."

Among the most powerful families in pre-revolutionary era America are the Collins, whose establishment of the Maine fishing town Collinsport has brought them immense wealth, as well as the symbol of their affluence, Collinwood Manor.

Wanting only to do his parents (Ivan Kaye, Susanna Cappellaro) proud, son Barnabas (Johnny Depp) is prepared to continue the family legacy for many years to come.

However his plans for immortality take a different turn when he turns down the love of servant Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green) only to learn she is a witch and an unforgiving one, at that. The enchantress ensures that Barnabas's life is destroyed piece by piece before cursing him to live as a vampire and overseeing his burial by the townspeople who once respected him.

After 196 years, Barnabas is exhumed from his coffin to find the world of 1972, where the roads are paved, electricity flows freely through houses and women are allowed to wear pants. More upsetting than all these modern wonders is the state of the Collins clan, whose fortune is meager, their business dying and the family estate in shambles.

Barnabas's descendants include head of household Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer), her dour teenage daughter Carolyn (Chloë Grace Moretz), Elizabeth's layabout brother Roger (Jonny Lee Miller) and his unhappy son, David (Gully McGrath). Also residing in the manor are caretaker Willie Loomis (Jackie Earle Haley), live-in psychiatrist Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter), and David's mysterious governess, Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcote), the only staff members of a house that was meant to host hundreds.

Reunited with family members under the guise of being a "distant relation," Barnabas swears to restore their name to its former glory, a vow that is made all the greater when he finds out the same woman whose spell made him undead is still alive and has kept Collinsport under her thumb for centuries.

For as many quirky, macabre roles as he's taken on, it's shocking we have yet to see Depp as a bloodsucker. Bela Lugosi has nothing on him as a vampire, and the heartthrob's commitment to loony bravado in every part he plays is at its highest, whether he's waggling his spidery fingers to dupe someone into a hypnotic trance or putting moves on the womenfolk who don't comprehend just how old-fashioned he really is.

French actress Green drops her accent — and sounds amazingly different — as the sorceress who can hold a grudge like nobody's business. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, but there are simply no words for Angelique when she's feeling frisky, plying Barnabas into a midair session of lovemaking against his better judgment.

Neo of "The Matrix" could only hope to have prowess.

Most of the women here aren't used to their full potential, like Pfeiffer as Elizabeth, doing everything she can to keep the Collins afloat, or Moretz as her bratty kid, who does little beyond staring blankly at "Uncle Barnabas" and saying "You're so weird."

Takes one to know one…

Heathcote's turn as wide-eyed Victoria, the spitting image of a girl from Barnabas's past, is pleasing, with this nanny having more than a few secrets — but that's all right because the man courting her certainly has a couple himself.

Bonham Carter keeps up just as well as Dr. Hoffman, who's most intrigued to examine the new arrival's physiology, that is, if she can maintain sobriety and keep him out of the light.

The Deppster holding the title of supreme kook, Bonham Carter making sardonic quips, a pop-in by Christopher Lee, music by Danny Elfman, characters who apparently get no circulation in their face whatsoever — if these details don't tip you off that this was a Tim Burton movie, you may want to have your pulse checked.

Burton's bleak worldview of black and white — and the occasional red — fits perfectly with the basic layout of Dan Curtis's gothic soap opera, and the director must have been overjoyed to design elements like the massive cliff overlooking the sea where Collinwood stands, as well as the countless figureheads, portraits and secret passages within the veritable castle.

However the uniquely crafted aspects that made the original series such a cult classic lose some of their flair when they're being foisted onto a mainstream crowd. Burton often tries too hard to please everyone and compromises his vision by doing too much and cramming the extra plot points of Seth Grahame-Smith's screenplay into the finale rather than letting them flow naturally.

A vampire isn't the only unholy thing lurking around, but Depp is at the center of everything, nonetheless, and his ability to blend the oddly freakish and the freakishly odd is what makes everything come together when all is said and done. He's played the same kind of part enough times to know how to do it right, and he definitely has fun with it as the blueblood who craves blood.

The real challenge must have been getting Alice Cooper — who appears as himself — to look like he did 40 years ago.

The tongue-in-cheek approach to "Dark Shadows" makes it enjoyable even with its weaknesses, which devotees of the Depp/Burton partnership will barely notice anyway. Compared to "Twilight," at least this vampire has some raw sexual magnetism and isn't afraid to use his fangs, though he brushes religiously after feeding.

Now playing at the West Theatre and at Steamboat Springs' Metropolitan Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.

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“Dark Shadows”

2.5 out of 4 stars

113 minutes

Starring: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter and Eva Green

Now playing at the West Theatre and at Steamboat Springs’ Metropolitan Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.