Shedding Some Light on Dark Shadows

The Dark Shadows movie was one of those projects in which I had just about zero interest when it was announced. I was intrigued by Tim Burton directing and using his buddy Johnny Depp as the centuries-old vampire Barnabas Collins. But the long-canceled ABC soap opera on which it was based was pretty much unknown to me, so there was no sentimental attachment.

But these new character images have really helped capture my imagination:

When the cast started filling in, the addition of names like Michelle Pfeiffer, Chloe Grace Moretz (the adorable Hit Girl from Kick-Ass) and Jackie Earle Haley (Rorschach from Watchmen) started to counterbalance dull choices, like Helena Bonham Carter (no surprise there…). So I started to take a little notice.

However, the whole project took a great leap backward when photos started leaking out from spies haunting location shooting. Those initial set photos were a disaster, featuring what appeared to be a white-faced Depp looking like some mad amalgamation of Michael Jackson and a deranged clown.

But then came the official photos, featuring cast members posed on the Collinwood mansion set. And then came the trailer! It was spunky and in-your-face and full of life. The funny clip revealed Burton and company are going for a very comical movie that is nothing like the gothic soap diehard fans remember. This is a fish-out-of-water period piece set in 1972, and most of the vampire tropes are played for laughs – both subtle and broad (Barnabas brushing his fangs in front of a mirror? Really?) And now we get these images, which are more than merely faces.

There’s no doubt that this project has to walk a very thin line to succeed, but it has a chance, because the writers on the project include Seth Grahame-Smith, who penned the novel Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (and wrote the screenplay for the film adaptation), and frequent Burton collaborator John August. And Burton himself — who can be hit-or-miss with decidedly weird material — appears to have really sunk his teeth into this one. If we’re lucky, this will be another Ed Wood or Beetlejuice — movies in which Burton took strangely unreal universes (the Netherworld and…uh, Hollywood) and made us believe in them.

I recall Burton saying, some years back, words to the effect of “I wouldn’t know a good story if it bit me in the face.” Hopefully, his collaborators are taking care of the story, so when the movie opens May 11, Burton can concentrate on bringing us a strange world of… gothic laughs.

Just for the fun of it, here’s that boffo trailer…

Oh, yeah? Sez you!

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