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Monday, October 29, 2012

Video Beaverhausen: Dark Shadows

There's nothing like a stormy night, going down to Kevin's apartment for pizza, beer and a movie on dvd. The movie last night was Tim Burton's Dark Shadows, based on the tv soap opera of the same name, and which neither of us had seen theatrically. The series made vampirism, the gothic and supernatural sexy and cool long before that became trendy.

Having just gone to the movies to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show, it struck me how much Dark Shadows, the movie has in common with Rocky Horror. Both films are played for camp value; they have moments of absolute brilliance; they parody horror movies/tv show of decades past; they're handsomely produced, have great ensemble casts, and their third acts are a mess.

Despite the fact that, during its finale, Dark Shadows goes off the rails, all of what went on beforehand displays Burton's kooky genius. Most impressively, Burton puts a back story together and organizes the DS story line in a manner that was impossible for the soap, because it was virtually made up as it went along. The film starts very seriously, then the subtle camp touches are added (starting with the van full of hapless hippies) until the audience is presented with all-out satire. Tim Burton's sense of camp is, in fact, so well honed, I boggle at the thought that he's straight.

Expressionistic colorization is wonderful, as is the acting. Johnny Depp makes a fantastic Barnabas Collins, his voice channeling Jonathan Fridd's, and Eva Green is divine as sexy witch Angelique. Michelle Pfeiffer, who still looks as if she eats one cracker a day (as Missy Elliott might put it) gives an appropriately pinched and pained look to family matriarch, Elizabeth. Helena Bonham Carter is a true delight as the boozy Dr Julia Hoffman (a bit of an in-joke about the original Hoffman, Grayson Hall). Christopher ("Dracula") Lee appears in a cameo, and Alice Cooper sings, playing his younger self.

While set in New England, the movie was shot in old England. Special effects and make-up are largely put to good use (i.e., Barnabas' elongated fingers) as are the songs included on the soundtrack. The Carpenters track is especially put to good use.

There's so much we enjoyed about this flick, so much we laughed about and admired. Can we forgive its crappy finale? Maybe not. But we decided, after watching Dark Shadows, that we want lava lamps.

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