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Feature


Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp), of the wealthy Collins family, breaks the heart of a servant girl Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green) but much to his own doom because she turns out to be a witch. Manipulating the deaths of all that Barnabas loves, Angelique also turns him into a vampire and when the town cast him out, he lays in a chained coffin underground for 196 years.

Now it's 1972 and when the development of the town frees Barnabas, he is awoken to find the Collins family isn't what it was all those years ago and a certain witch is in charge of his home town Collinsport.

 Dark Shadows
Alice in Wonderland was the first Tim Burton film I outright didn't like and the first Tim Burton film I do not and will never own. Since Alice and to be honest a little bit before Alice, there seemed to be a distinct growth in the view that Tim Burton had "lost it" but looking at his recent filmography I can't say that I agree. Sweeney Todd is brilliant, Corpse Bride was great, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory doesn't touch the original but it's still fun enough and really if I carry on back it's really only Planet of the Apes that is a truly bad film. I still personally consider myself a fan of his work. I'm not sick of the Depp collaborations (as also seems to be the general consensus) and I still look forward to his upcoming projects when we get to hear about them.

Initially upon seeing the first images of Dark Shadows, I wasn't sure what to expect. Then, when the first trailer rolled around, I for one dug the kooky comedic aspects of it, even though the buzz online seemed set against it straight off the bat. Then the luke warm reviews rolled in and I held off a little while before seeing the movie in the fear that the Alice and Wonderland megabucks at the box office had corrupted Burton enough to make another bad movie.

Anyway, when I did get around to seeing Dark Shadows I went in nervously. I’d never seen the TV show it’s based on, I had no idea what the mood of the film would really be like and if the trailer was playing up the chuckles in the hope it would bring in the teens I feared I would be disappointed. On top of that the overwhelmingly negative word of mouth I’d had from friends about the film rocked my hopes of this being a good movie and I have to say I was worried as the Warner Bros. logo did it's thing at the start of the movie.

 Dark Shadows
I don't know what to say really. Either my finger is off of the pulse for this one or what I like about Burton's work is different to the crowds. I honestly think this is a great piece of Burton film making and a real solid taste of his rather unique style. I have to say that from the get go, I liked the mood here and how the comedy counters the dark tones was pretty well handled. The almost Hammer Horror look to the film as we see the dark Barnabas Collins story unfold is well played by Burton (as if it wouldn't be given the genre). Depp's voice over seemed to have a flavour of Richard Burton on the  War of the Worlds album almost and it's refreshing to see a vampire done classically I have to say.

Then we hit the 70s and rather than watch the film fall to pieces, like many a critic had warned me about, I feel that Depp provides such a strong, enjoyable central performance (again) that it’s enough to carry the movie through (again). I love his man out of time responses to the modern world. Of course most of them had appeared in the trailers already (a curse many a movie suffers from of late) but Depp’s mannerisms, responses and confident awkwardness to the world around him are a joy. His one liners here are marvellous and those underplaying his obvious talents of late are missing the genius in what he does I feel.

On top of that, the bad girl Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green) makes for a great counterpoint to Barnabas. I've never been entirely sold on Eva Green. She’s always solid in her performances but I sometimes find her a bit cold and hard to like. That is not the case here. She is so much fun with her devilish grins and playful approach to this witch it's hard not to fall in love with her. She’s equal parts nasty and humorous and the she plays off Depp really well. There's a real playfulness in this performance and it's made me warm to her charms and I totally want to see her do this sort of thing again.

 Dark Shadows
The Collins family are a little bit more of a mixed bag but still support the story pretty well. Michelle Pfeiffer is having fun with the little amount she has to play with. Helena Bonham Carter, Jackie Earle Haley and Jonny Lee Miller bring enough to the table to have memorable moments and Chloë Moretz gets to play it cool in amongst the craziness. I generally agree that they are largely underused in the whole, especially considering how well known many of them are but they do all get to shine in here one way or another.

Really Dark Shadows worked for me because I liked the performances, especially to two lead lovers / enemies. I'll admit the plot can sometimes feel stretched too thinly and the love story between Depp and Bella Heathcote seems unimportant despite it's obvious importance to the plot but it's not enough to take the Burton-esq shine off of this movie. I dug it. Burton is still doing his own thing and this feels like a real effort to touch base with what we all love him for after the hugeness of Alice and Wonderland. The world may be saying that Burton isn't what he was but I sure as shit don't agree if Dark Shadows is part of that argument.

Video


This video presentation here is fantastic. Moody, shadowy, dark (Dark Shadowy if you will)and very must classic horror in style. However, in amongst the darkness, colours literally pop off the screen. The colourful seventies nods look great against the Gothic look of the film and every little slither of red, purple, blue and more so yellow and orange really brings the image to life when you least expect it.

 Dark Shadows
The image is also very sharp in all the right HD ways, it's packed with great detail (especially in costumes and make up designs) and despite the stylised lighting and colouring, the image still manages to muster up a striking appearance that fans should be very happy with.

Audio


However good the video is, the audio presentation is even better. Immiditaly the score is a amazing within the mix. It's layered, has subtle beats and movements and has a great bit of power behind it. Add in the 70s soundtrack, which sounds absolutely full of richness and weight you'll forget how old some of these songs are and the musical elements of the track simply astonish.

This isn't a track that is showing off though, it just does everything an audio mix should do and bloody well. It envelopes you, keeps you locked into the film's various moods and does each one of them well. This is the best audio mix I've heard in a while but then considering the smaller than small titles I've been reviewing lately this was always going to impress. (But seriously, this is a really great track).

 Dark Shadows

Extras


So great film, great video, great audio, has to mean great features, right? Sadly no. There's two things here and neither support the film as well as they should. First is the focus points, that can be popped into during the film or on their own from the boring ass Warners menus. They range from two to five minutes and come in at about 40 minutes all in all. They are short, EPK in nature and only hint at great things, because Depp and the cast seems more willing to get into detail here if there was more runtime to do so.

The only other extras are the deleted scenes (05:39 HD) and that's it.

 Dark Shadows

Overall


I've watched Dark Shadows twice now and I find myself liking it more and more each time I see it. I always enjoy Depp in a movie, even his luke warm ones but his performance here is so much fun it makes up for some of the films shortcomings.

The Blu-ray looks and sounds great and if the extras were more than short and sharp nuggets this could have been a great all round disc. Ahh well, we can't always get everything we want from the films we like now can we. Shame though, this one seemed like it would be one to cover a whole lot more than what is offered up here.

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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