Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dark Shadows: A Review (with spoilers)


My love of Dark Shadows was something that grew over a period of years. I watched it on VHS as a child and as a teenager, and eventually I got to watch the entire run starting on DVD in 2001. I saw a few episodes of the 1991 version when it originally aired, but still had to wait for DVD release to fully appreciate it as well. I won’t bore readers further in this post, but if you want to know more about my fascination with the series, click here.

For better or worse, I can best sum up my feelings by saying that though I didn’t love it, I likewise didn’t hate it.

My main issue was with Angelique. Eva Green is wonderful, but this version of Angelique was hard to take seriously. I wasn’t afraid of her, and I didn’t see her as much of a threat at any point in the film. 

The original Angelique portrayed by the still gorgeous Lara Parker scared me half to death. I hated Reverend Trask with a vengeance, but I was cheering him on when he exorcised her. Angelique was pure evil. Her character did become more enjoyable as they made her more complex, but no matter what incarnation she was in, she was frightening. Lysette Anthony was equally terrifying in 1991.

This Angelique (called Angie through most of the film, and doesn’t that tell you something right off?) was just too cute and hip and quirky. I disliked her, but I didn’t hate her and want her to get what was coming to her. I really liked some of the special effects with her at the end of the film as she crumbled and offered her shattering heart to Barnabas, but her death left me shrugging and murmuring, “whatever.”

I also had issues with Julia Hoffman. In the series, Julia and Barnabas began as enemies and then eventually bonded. I always loved their incredibly complicated relationship. Their relationship in this film was one dimensional and quite frankly just plain silly. I almost wish they’d just cut her out altogether after seeing what was done with her incredibly rich and intelligent character.

And dear Barnabas. I adore Johnny Depp, and his take was interesting, but it left me totally flat. Watching Jonathan Frid flub a line and look straight at the teleprompter while a boom mic hovered overhead, flies circled the actors, and a crew member stepped into shot proved more moving, IMHO. I absolutely adored Jonathan Frid and the sincere humanity and emotion he brought to Barnabas. Lots of things can save a show from being cancelled, but how often does an actor do it single-handedly? 

I liked Ben Cross a lot in the 1991 version, and I even enjoyed the clips I have seen of Alec Newman as Barnabas in the 2004 pilot that was not picked up.

But now onto the positive. I absolutely adored the opening scenes from the 18th century up through Vicki’s train ride into Collinsport. Beautiful scenes. The opening credit were fabulous and definitely gave me hope.

Michelle Pfieffer made my day as Elizabeth. I really thought she was spot on. And Jonny Lee Miller could pass for Louis Edmonds’ son any day of the week with those facial expressions. I liked what they did with Carolyn, up until the very end of the movie. I loved her moodiness and general attitude. Willie had me laughing at times, but mostly he blended into the background. Poor David and Victoria got very little screen time, but I liked what I saw. And Josette's ghost came close to making me feel like I was watching an actual episode of Dark Shadows.

Jonathan Frid’s cameo, unfortunately, was so brief it was easy to miss. My husband literally did miss it. However, it was heartwarming to see some of my favorite people on the big screen. I’m hoping for some deleted footage on the DVD. (Yes, I am going to buy it, if that colors my opinion one way or another for anyone.)

The ending was a bit of a mess. Just too much going on, to me, especially considering how slow the rest of the film was. I was very disappointed that, given all the illusions to David’s mother, more was not done with her. When I saw David confront Angelique surrounded by fire and talking about his mother, I was expecting Laura Collins the immortal Phoenix, not a watery ghost. And Carolyn suddenly wolfing out? I just didn’t see the point. Special effects were amazing though, and I thoroughly enjoyed the way Collinwood came to life in the finale, but still not an impressive ending.

All things considered though, I was smiling at the end when Barnabas and Josette finally, for once, get a happily ever after there at the bottom of Widow’s Hill. We spoke with a fan who grew up watching the show as we left the theater, and she said she was “finally satisfied” on that point too.

So, there it is. One fan’s opinion, take it or leave it. *cue the Robert Cobert music*