Making the Grades
In spite of their shared involvement in the occult, the Collins family of Collinsport, Maine is not the Cullens family of Forks, Washington. Nor are they the oddball Addams Family. However, the Collins clan is equally as peculiar as both of them. Cursed by a scorned lover in the 1700s, Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) is unearthed as a vampire 200 years later in the quaint little fishing town his parents established. Fangs aside, his formal attire and archaic language make him stand out in the 1972 community of dope smoking hippies, rock-n-roll music and lava lamps.
Introducing himself to the present occupants of the Collins’ house, Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer) and her ne’er-do-well brother Roger (Johnny Lee Miller), Barnabas discovers both the family’s business and mansion are in shambles. Eager to restore the Collins Empire to its previous glory, he goes about refurbishing the manor and redeveloping the fishing operation.
His chief competition on the waterfront is Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green), owner of Angie’s Fish. The high-powered fishmonger is also the well-preserved witch who hexed Barnabas. Although 20 decades have passed, she remains as adamant as ever that the bloodthirsty beast love her and no one else. That’s a bad omen for the demure governess Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcote). The young teacher looks just like Barnabas’s 1760 love interest—the one that throws herself off a cliff after being put under Angelique’s spell.
As Barnabas struggles to win Victoria’s love and resist Angelique’s renewed sexual advances (something he doesn’t always do well), he has to adapt to life on the estate. Along with his cousins and their two troubled offspring (Chloë Grace Moretz, Gulliver McGrath), he copes with the perpetually inebriated family psychiatrist (Helen Bonham Carter) and the hammered household handyman (Jackie Earle Haley).
All these dysfunctional personalities and warped family secrets add up to a dark comedy that waffles between a quirky fish out of water tale and a fiendish yarn of bloody, murderous mayhem. The emphasis is on the bloody when Barnabas snacks on a crew of construction workers. Later, blood oozes from the walls of the mansion and from a man’s wound when he is shot in the back. Other content concerns arise around the frequent depictions of smoking. And though Barnabas and Angelique keep most of their clothes on during their wild sexual romp that leaves her office in a shredded mess, the script contains plenty of crude sexual humor and comments.
Director Tim Burton, known for bizarre films like the Corpse Bride, Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and Mars Attacks, likely won’t disappoint his fans that enjoy his outlandish characters and wacky scenarios. But even Barnabas’ devotion to members of his bloodline isn’t enough to make this offbeat fish story one that family viewers will want to sink their teeth into.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Dark Shadows.
This movie is based on a cult TV series that ran as a soap opera from 1966 to 1971.
What are the challenges of making a TV series into a full-length movie? How does the vampire in this story differ from the ones portrayed in the Twilight series or Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant?
Why is Barnabas eager to restore the family empire?
How is love portrayed in this film? How does Barnabas’ affection for his family differ from the kind of passion Angelique demonstrates?