Sunday, June 17, 2012
Dishing about Dark Shadows (and loving Chicago's Patio Theater)
However, before we get to that, I just want to give a shout-out to Chicago's historic Patio Theater (6008 W. Irving Park Rd), which first opened in 1927. It was beautifully restored and reopened last year after being closed for a decade - and last night was my first time seeing a film there. The price of admission is always - and only - $5, and I highly recommend this great venue for your movie-viewing pleasure. You can also help support the theater's current Kickstarter campaign to raise the necessary funds for a new digital projection system (click here to donate and see pics of this majestic movie palace).
Now here is my list of Dark Shadows' likes and dislikes:
1) I liked the opening, which follows the TV plot of Victoria Winters arriving by train at Collinwood to become the new governess of young David Collins. But why couldn't they include the original theme music? I also liked that Victoria's actual name is "Maggie Evans", who was one of my favorite characters in the series - this was a nice twist that kind of combined the two ladies into one.
2) I would've preferred to have Willie Loomis release Barnabas from his coffin in the family crypt (as in the original show) instead of being unearthed by construction workers.
4) I loved Michelle Pfeiffer as Elizabeth, but I would have given her character the TV show's storyline about being a recluse since her husband's mysterious disappearance many years ago. It was eventually revealed that Elizabeth believed that he was buried in the basement after she murdered him - but he later turned out to be still alive. Now this juicy plot would've given Pfeiffer a whole lot more to do.
5) Jonny Lee Miller is wasted in the film as Roger Collins, Elizabeth's brother and David's father. The character never had that much to do in the TV series, but at one point he married the evil Angelique - and this would've been a good way to introduce her in the film, which has way too much of Eva Green as the vengeful witch who turned Barnabas into a vampire. Ms. Green is good as Angelique, but the movie would've been better with less of her and more of the other characters.
6) Chloë Grace Moretz is okay as Elizabeth's 15-year-old daughter Carolyn, but the character was so much more interesting in the original show. She was a few years older with a cute boyfriend named Joe Haskell, and she spent a lot of time dancing down at The Blue Whale pub. And although I was surprised when it was revealed at the end of the film that she was a werewolf (courtesy of Angelique's curse), I was also very confused - wouldn't her mother have known if she was bitten by a werewolf as a baby? This unexpected twist just didn't work for me.
7) Bella Heathcote and Johnny Depp have zero chemistry as Victoria and Barnabas - especially because the 24-year-old actress looks so young. I think she would've been better cast as Carolyn.
9) I think it's wonderful that original Dark Shadows actors Jonathan Frid, Lara Parker, David Selby and Kathryn Leigh Scott all made cameo appearances as party guests during the ball held at Collinwood. But I completely missed their scene, which I think lasted all of two seconds. Couldn't they have shortened singer Alice Cooper's appearance and allowed a bit more time for these folks?
10) Johnny Depp makes a marvelous Barnabas - despite his bizarre look (why the long fingernails and bad make-up? So not necessary). And in the original, no one except Willie, Angelique and Julia knew that he was a vampire. Barnabas just tried to fit in while struggling to not bite anyone. Instead in the film, he's an obvious fish out of water - which is successfully played for comic effect - but we get no sense of his struggle to control his blood-sucking urges. Again, choices were made to make the movie different than the TV series.
11) And, finally, we come to the ending, which features some terrific special effects (I hope the Academy Awards acknowledges this with a nomination next year). But I wasn't thrilled with any of the storyline "resolutions", which I won't give away. I guess I will have to wait for Dark Shadows to be filmed again someday - perhaps in a Parallel Time - to see a more faithful version to the original be told.
My Grade: B- (mainly for Depp, Pfeiffer and Bonham Carter's performances - and the film is entertaining even though it's not the Dark Shadows that I was hoping for)
Running time: 113 long minutes