Tuesday, May 8, 2012

"Dark Shadows" (2012)

One very common product of today's infinite catalog of entrainment, a tendency not so voguish in the beginning of the decade: vampires. Sure we'd had Coppola's Dracula in 1992, Buffy, the Vampire Slayer in 1997 and even John Carpenter's Vampires and Blade in 1998, but what's that compared with the bouquet of Twilight's saga and the foreign attempts to spin it off , True Blood series (2008 - present), the angle between Let the Right One In (2008) and its remake Let Me In (2010)? It engulfed the merchandise machine and we suddenly realized it is one of the most exhausted sub-genres of the time, making it much difficult not to be irrelevant.

 Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) was put upon a curse that made him a vampire and locked up for two hundred years, until the 1970's. Depp, one of the most versatile and extravagant actors of our ages, embraced this pale, archaic, handsome, ville but emotionally shattered creature of death, as he wakes up to take revenge on Angelique (Eva Green), the jealous witch who killed his beloved Josette (Bella Heathcote) and who did the tricks. The only problems are the electricity, the asphalt, the cars, television, the vinyls, the Carpenters, Alice Cooper or Iggy Pop, the still boiling design creative bubble of the 60's, the mash of colors, the hippies. What the hell is all that? Beelzebub, he thinks at first. Oh, and perhaps it is not too much to note that Angelique is a very, very sexy woman now, and the spooky mansion of his family, the Collins, is now a defunct large piece of a chateaux inhabited by the disenchanted remains of their last generation, headed by Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer). 

Dark Shadows (2012) is not as touching as Edward Scissorhands (1990) or Big Fish (2003) but arrives as one of the most enjoyable Tim Burton's of a career. I am a big fan of genre and thus I delight over deconstructions, re-examinations and crossovers. Some describe it as a Gothic dramedy. Indeed it is a very funny entwining of the conventions of the vampire mythology and horror aesthetic with the distant elements of the melodrama: the overbearing sentimentalism (the love triangle; Barnabas and Hoffman (Helena B. Carter) and the whole beauty angle; Carolyn's (Chlöe G. Moretz) teenage whims); the big palette of colors (e.g. the pinkish fire); the excess of form (extraordinary art direction and special effects). The lack of a social critique has given place to the dark and witty exegesis. I hint you to pay attention at some of the best  jokes: McDonalds; Chevy; get stoned. But I laughed a lot all the way throughout.

 It does have problems. Story problems, mostly. Seth Grahame-Smith popped up a couple of years ago with his book Pride, Prejudice and Zombies (which is now being turned into a movie), and in a snap became Burton's fetish screenwriter, alongside John August, who is co-credited with a "story by", here. Seth wrote Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012) (adapted from his book) and is working on Beetlejuice 2 (2014). Although most of the dialog was very good, there were some on-the-nose lines, like Barnabus and Hoffman's last meeting in the house. Roping it to the cheesy last two minutes, I'm framing them all as target-audience devices.

Besides the protagonist and the antagonist, all the characters are sadly underdeveloped which in this case turned into a series of hanging foreshadowings, waiting for a little hand (e.g. Roger (Johnny Lee Miller) and the secret passage), unraveled storylines (e.g. David (Gulliver McGrath) and his mother) and coherence issues (why is Victoria (Belle Heathcote) the main character for fifteen minutes; what's her true relation with Josette; why is she there; who the hell is she and what's with all the ghost stuff). Also, they take some easiness while creating the rules of their special world, such as the scope of the magical powers, leaving out some logical lumps.

Chlöe proves we can wait for huge things from her in the future by making so interesting such a bi-dimensional character. She is the vehicle of one of the big (and also undeveloped) surprises and, without words, plays one of the great moments in the film when she dances in the background. The movie has those incredible visual moments, such as the set-piece sex-scene.

Take a chance to listen to the always beautiful score of Danny Elfman accompanied with some classics from the seventies, lean back, prepare your wits and enjoy this one.


  1. Mesmo sendo engraçado, penso que Burton e Depp estão a cair no absurdo...

    Frank and Hall's Stuff

    1. Apesar de não ter gostado do Alice, não podia concordar menos. Mas o que entendes por "absurdo" neste contexto ?

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