Saturday, May 12, 2012

Cinema Babble: Not Exactly A chip Off The Old Block

The Flick: Dark Shadows

The Peeps: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Eva Green, Chloe Grace  Moretz, Jonny Lee  Miller, Helena Bonham Carter, Jackie Earle Haley, Alice Cooper, etc.

The Dealio: When young, rich dude Barnabas Collins refuses to proclaim his love for servant Angelique Bouchard, she sets out to curse both his family and him. The curse begins with his parents dying in an Angelique-engineered 'accident', ruining the family biz (fish cannery), moves on to inducing his one true love to walk off a cliff, and then, finally gets around to turning Barnabas into a vampire, burying him in a chain-wrapped coffin on the edge of Collinsport, and then moving on with her life. 
Fast forward: In the process of tearing up some ground outside town, in 1972, workmen unearth his chained coffin, and, of course, are unable to observe any sort of caution. They cut the chains and unleash, well, you know. Next up to bat, (Sorry. Had to be said), we have the old fish-out-of-water gig. Supposing that the fish was of the vampire persuasion. Barnabas is poised to re-enter the world to find things much changed. But, not everything is different: the Collins family is still cursed by loss of wealth and standing, mysterious deaths and haunted apparitions. Much fun is made with the re-imagining of this Dan Curtis series from the late '60's and early '70's, but there is also a definite foundation of creeping dread that permeates the whole. 

The Grading Session: 3.07 pengies out of 5. As someone so devoted to this 'Gothic soap' (the only soap I ever got involved with. Which), I had my mom write me weekly letters catching me up with the plot twists and detours when I went away to college, I had such great expectations for this film. My excitement grew when I learned that Depp and Burton were re-teaming to bring this to the screen. But, sadly, my first  emotion was one of disappointment. Can't say exactly why I felt this way, but I definitely felt that the spirit (ha-ha) of the thing missed the mark. The blend of camp (yeah, OK, that was present in the original, but not really in a self-aware, heavy-handed way. It was just something there, in the background, like another character. A minor character that left an impression). Here, the campiness is very self-conscious and gets in the way of the other strands of the story: revenge, salute to monster movies, commentary on our times, etc. Simplify, peeps. Simplify. And focus.

Lesson Learned: Here's a whopper: apparently a witch can make a person into a vampire simply by wishing it so. As a longtime student of such, I always thought the touchstone for vampirism was the neck-nibble. Also this: it is not a great thing, make-up wise, when a far off pan-shot makes the dark charcoal etched cheekbones on Barnabas' face look exactly like, well, stark, black, charcoal-etched lines across and down his white face. The secret to great cheekbones (or so I am told)? Blend, blend, blend.

Notable Quotables: Barnabas: Love means never having to say you're sorry. However, it is with sincere regret that I must kill all of you.'  And Barnabas, to the TV, showing Karen Carpenter singing Top Of The World: 'Reveal yourself, tiny songstress!'

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