I don't suspect for one second that this review will be remotely coherent, or indeed in any logical order, but anyway...
For starters: if you've seen the trailer, don't worry; they haven't ruined all the funny bits. Some of the best lines were left a surprise, and the trailer isn't making it more funny than it actually is. There are several laugh-out-loud moments, some of them obvious and some of them which may only appeal to Tim Burton fans... ;)
I suppose I should provide a brief summary. Barnabus Collins (Johnny Depp) is the son and heir of the Collins legacy in 1750 or thereabouts. They build and run a fishing town called Collinsport. He spurns Angelique (Eva Green), a maid in the Collins family home who transpires to be a witch, and she places a curse on his family. First she kills his parents, then the love of his life (Josette), before turning him into a vampire and locking him in a box for two centuries. He is unearthed in 1972 by workmen and returns to Collinswood, where he moves in with the Collins family members now living there - Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer) and her daughter Carolyn (Chloe Grace Moretz), Elizabeth's brother and his son, David, and David's psychiatrist, Dr Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter). David also has a nanny, Vicky (formerly Maggie), who is the image of Josette. The family business has been overturned by Angel Bay, a rival company run by Angelique, and Barnabus helps the Collins family get their business back.
That's the basic gist. In amongst all this there is a love story, treachery, ghosts, murder, werewolves and explosions.
It had a weird mix of styles, really. Collinswood (the house) looked more traditionally "Burton-esque" with its dark corners, weird angles and gothic architecture; Angelique's office reminded me more of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or Pee Wee's Big Adventure with its bright colours and white walls; the outside areas of Collinsport were more subdued and traditional, more of a nod to Big Fish. As I expect from any Burton film, though, the world was well-defined and full of depth, each of the locations seeming part of something bigger rather than separate entities.
It references so many things, I actually lost count, and will probably have forgotten the majority. Tim Burton is renowned for including references to his older films, and Dark Shadows is rife with them, in addition to silly vampire imagery and references to other vampire films (mostly Dracula) and horror movies in general. The below is not a comprehensive list, nor in any particular order, but just what I can remember for the moment:-
- Barnabus eating dinner at the family table and cautiously picking up / dropping the cutlery (because it might be silver and thus burn his hands) was reminiscent of Edward trying to pick up a knife with his scissorhands.
- Barbabus's umbrella was very similar to the umbrellas sported by the vampires in Nightmare Before Christmas.
- Barnabus's hyptonism gesture was the same as the one taught to Eddie by Bela Lugosi (that bit made me giggle) in Ed Wood.
- The first fisherman he uses it on was played by Christoper Lee. Of course. (A boy in his late teens/early twenties in the row in front of us had to explain that bit to his mum when she didn't understand why people were giggling. Bless.)
- Tim Burton's trademark Hammer Horror blood, as seen in Sleepy Hollow and Sweeney Todd.
- Lots of silly vampire imagery like him hanging upside down, sleeping in cupboards, rising up out of a coffin (and then stretching contentedly), etc. There's a bit where he's shuffling himself feet first into a man-sized box which also reminded me of Edward Scissorhands when Edward is trying to get into a pair of trousers. Considering this is Burton and Depp's eighth collaboration, I presume the various nods to their first film together were intentional and affectionate. :) (I can only assume that somewhere there MUST have been the famous "Nosferatu" post as well - the bit where he was in a cupboard sort of reminded me of it anyway.)
- There was even a reference to Death Becomes Her during the fight sequence at the end. A bit out of left field, that one, but very amusing nonetheless (I do wonder how many people will get it, though).
- The house was like a combination of The Addams Family (all the hidden passageways and the room full of treasure, and the staircase in the foyer) and Edward Scissorhands, again (the front Courtyard). At one point Burton was tipped for an Addams Family remake and I think he could have done it justice (with Helena Bonham-Carter as Granny, rather than Morticia). Also the fact that it was a house on a hill must be a reference to all those old horror films - there was even an angry mob. :D
- Eva Green's character / portrayal had a lot of Lisa Marie / Anne Hathaway as the White Queen about it (apparently the latter auditioned for the part anyway) - her movements were quite reminscent of the Alien Babe in Mars Attacks!, and frankly her smile was terrifying...
- Now, I admit I have Phantom on the brain a lot these days, but I'm not entirely convinced these references were all in my head... At one point there is a falling chandelier. There is also a shot of Barnabus in a small boat, wearing a CAPE and a FEDORA. It's just... it's too similar and convenient for both of those things to occur in the same film. If we're taking Lon Chaney's Erik as a horror legend anyway, I am partial to the idea that those references were indeed intentional; the next, however, I am content to assume as my own mad imaginings:-
- Barnabus calls maybe all the female characters (aside from Angelique) "my dear", which any phan worth their salt knows is Erik's endearment for Christine; also, Johnny Depp's hands are beautiful (in general, not just in this. :D) If Tim Burton is going to continue to taunt me with this Depp-as-Erik imagery, the very least he can do is make a version of the book (I hasten to add, not the musical, as I think the 2004 disaster has tainted any future endeavours for all eternity now). We are so long overdue a film adaptation of the Susan Kay prequel anyway, and there was already that scene in Sweeney Todd with the masked ball which made my heart hurt for how amazing a Burtonised Phantom would be, and Depp in The Libertine under six tonnes of syphilis make-up and SOMEHOW STILL PRETTY. He has the stage/screen presence to pull it off, he's really good at those sort of roles, and I have no doubts as to his ability to act under a mask, with the physicality he's capable of. Just, GUH. I want a Depp!Erik NAOW. (Bizarrely, one of the hippy chicks was Cassie from Gen 1 of Skins, who I've always thought looked like a young Sarah Brightman... :P)
- Annnyway. Erm... I'm sure there must have been more. Oh, the film opens (in 1750) with the Collinses leaving Liverpool by boat, which was pretty much Tim-Burton-does-Pirates. ;)
- I'm also fairly sure there were lines taken directly from previous films, as I can remember smiling at dialogue that wasn't especially funny, per se, because it was familiar. I know at one point Angelique referred to herself and Barnabus as being "big fish in a very small pond" which, aside from being an expression in itself, is doubtless also a reference to Big Fish.
- OH! That was it. Another Edward Scissorhands reference towards the end, as Angelique was 'crumbling' under Barnabus's touch, which was like the scene with Edward's hands.
- Now that I think about it, the vampire transformation reminded me of the Queen in Disney's Snow White as she transforms into the hag - the hands especially as they became bonier and grew sharp nails. That's a pretty iconic image so also possibly intentional.
- Paul reckoned Dr Hoffman's bright orange flick-bobbed hair was a reference to the Alien Babe too, although she/it actually had a blonde beehive (to hide the space helmet). I am pretty sure it's a reference to something, I just can't place my finger on what. It definitely rings a bell... The hairstyle may well have been in Beetlejuice (the underworld receptionist had blue or green hair in that style, I think?), but apart from that I can't think where else I've seen it.
Okay, I think that's enough. I've probably missed / forgotten loads more. Whilst I'm still in listy mode, some favourite lines (most of which are from the trailer, I admit):-
- Barnabus: You may place your wonderful lips upon my posterior and kiss it repeatedly!
[I'm totally putting this on an LJ icon.]
- Carolyn: Are you stoned or something?
Barnabus: They tried stoning me once, my dear. It did not work.
- Barnabus: ... fetch the horses!
Elizabeth: We don't have horses. We have a Chevy.
- Barnabus: (After being locked in a box for a second time) What year is it? How many centuries have passed?
David: It's been twenty minutes.
- Dr Hoffman: Every year I get half as pretty and twice as drunk.
(That was definitely my favourite. :D)
Other stuff: Barnabus's first vision of the future, upon being unearthed, is the famous golden arches forming their giant "M", which he automatically assumes stands for Mephistopheles. Of course. ;) Also I think they pre-empted the Thing With Carolyn (I shan't spoil it) by David's line about the fact that she "makes noises like a cat"... at the point where that line happened it was to emphasise the rivalry between the cousins and the fact that David could hold his own against Carolyn's snark, but the more I think about it, the more I think it's a subtle hint to later.
I actually really liked the 'family loyalty' of Barnabus, in that he had to eat random strangers to survive but would never hurt his family. In the future I imagine him being a bit like chipped!Spike at Buffy's house, drinking microwaved blood in lieu of killing people. ;)
Despite the two 'pairings' in the film of Barnabus/Vicky and Barnabus/Angelique, I actually thought he had more tension with Elizabeth. There was a silent assumption that he would fulfil the father role for David later on, so in that sense Barnabus/Elizabeth wouldn't make much sense (as it would make him David's uncle, of course :P), and I presume the intention is also that Vicky is the new mother figure - although given the various inhabitants of Collinswood, I suspect his actual mother would stick around anyway. Barnabus/Vicky was the crux of the story and I did enjoy the happy ending in that regard, though the open-ended we-might-have-a-sequel (I won't spoil it) cliffhanger was sort of predictable. I like to imagine the Collinses' future in my own head now, rather than having it spelled out: Barnabus and Vicky and their insane vampire wedding, everyone living in at Collinswood and all the silliness that would ensue, and the fact that The Vengeance Cometh (eventually). We don't really need to see all that, so I sort of hope they don't go down the route of a sequel, as much as I WANT MOAR BARNABUS. A sequel would be a bit redundant really. Anyway, yeah, predictable ending aside, it was very enjoyable.
Oh yeah, the soundtrack was pretty cool. Danny Elfman was, of course, present and correct, although the score did not immediately grab me as it usually does - there were several repeated themes in there, which I come to expect now when he works with Burton. (At one point there was a repetitive beat which sounded like the opening of POTO's title song, around the same time as the falling chandelier - not sure if that was intentional either but I enjoyed it. :P It could just as easily be a nod to "Over at the Frankenstein Place" from Rocky Horror... Or possibly I'm overthinking.)
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I definitely want to see it again, as there was so much I've forgotten and probably missed - as I say, too many references to keep track of - and for me personally, as a Burton fan, it was one of his best yet. He sometimes does fall over when it comes to adaptations (I've mentioned this before, that it's almost like his creativity is stifled by the confines of the subject material) and I'm really looking forward to the remake of Frankenweenie in October, but in this case I bascially went in cold as I knew very little about the original series. I think Dark Shadows purists will probably not like it, although both Burton and Depp are fans of the original and wanted to make it for that reason. I dunno. Many people seem to dislike his films these days for the same reason that the fans like them - such as using the same stars and talent each time (frankly, he's not the only director who does that so I don't see the issue). Haters gonna hate, basically.
I fear it will not do well at the box office because it's up against Avengers Assemble and - in a few weeks - The Dark Knight Rises, and comic book geeks unfortunately outweigh Burton geeks because the majority of the latter are probably still babygoth emos with no money. It's a shame. But actually, I don't care, because I still love his work and I will always make the exception to see his films during opening weekend. I can't really explain why, but Burton's work makes me happy. Something about his imagery touches that part of my soul which awakened with Beetlejuice; exposure to his films at a relatively young age has made me who I am, and I think that's true for a lot of his fans. Dark Shadows is awesome, for all the right reasons; people will hate it for all the wrong ones.
Hm, that ended up a bit more philosophical than I expected...
In other news: on Saturday we had our "Classical meets Romantic" concert. Frankly, I was quite glad when it was over with. I don't especially like singing in Town Hall anyway (the changing facilities are a pain, and the choir stalls are cramped), and everything felt a bit under-prepared because we were focusing so much energy on Equinox back in March. I'm pretty sure there were sections of the Beethoven I hadn't seen before during rehearsal. I personally didn't feel it went that well, but I was also really tired on Saturday anyway (post-squee comedown from Friday night).
There's too much going on at Symphony Hall this month that I want to see: Karl Jenkins on the 27th and Dracula (the Legosi one) with a live orchestra score on the 29th. It also transpires Katie Melua is touring and appearing there on 12th October; I did a search for tickets last night and there are only the back few rows of the Grand Tier left - or you can get them through touts for upwards of £85 (they retail at £32.50!) I wish I knew about this stuff sooner. :( I think Vicky's bought me the new album for Christmas anyway, so I won't have heard it by October in any event, but it's still irritating.
I also need to find money from somewhere to book Phantom for the UK tour - it hits Birmingham in March 2013 and tickets go on sale next Monday (ten months in advance). I am utterly skint and they cost as much as going to London. It's been 15 years since the last tour (I saw it in Birmingham in August 1998) so I want to see it on that basis, as it was something of a rite of passage and the start of an up-and-down love affair with the fandom when I was 16, but it's so expensive and I'm worried that by the time I have enough money to afford it, there'll only be rubbish seats left. :(
On Sunday we had a visit from Peter, our landlord, and his wife Doreen ("D"), who is lovely. They had come over following a letter from Connells re: the fallen shelf, because Connells had helpfully said "landlord is aware" when we had in fact gone through Connells as is right and proper, without bothering Peter about it. Anyway, long story short, he is just as sick of Connells as we are and has been trying to get through to them all week to go about cutting them out completely, i.e. rent to us directly. Essentially, he's paying them a load of admin fees to do bugger all.
We had been considering proposing the same arrangement to him anyway, and the only reason it's cropped up now is because our tenancy is due for renewal in July and it transfers automatically to a rolling monthly contract. Since we have no intention of leaving and Peter has no intention of selling, it seems mutually convenient to cut Connells out of the loop. The only reason he was using them was because he wouldn't know what to do if we stopped paying rent for any reason, which is fair enough.
Doreen basically gave us free rein to do what we liked with the house, too, which was lovely. They rent a property themselves so I imagine she knows what it's like. Her view was that it's our home and we can make it as nice as we want it - so we have permission now to move the fallen shelf into the kitchen, redecorate, paint the shed, etc., as long as we make good any holes. They also offered to redecorate the landing and stairs (the bannister fell off apparently so there's holes in the wall) and to get a gardener in to clear the back! We said no to all of that for now but will probably consider it at some point.
After that we got some bits out of the freezer for tea, went out to get salad, failed to buy red chillies, and made a start on the garden. The intention was to get the lawn under control but in the process of putting weedkiller down, I ended up in the front garden, Paul followed me out there with the secateurs and instead we cleared the drive. SO MUCH MUD, OMG. I uprooted most of the weeds myself and put weedkiller on the rest, cleared the debris and rubbish, and Paul clipped back the fuschia away from the window. And next week of course the weather's going to turn to crap again, so the lawn will get even bigger. :P
For tea I attempted tempura squid, which worked really well, with tempura courgettes, which failed, and some sea bass fillets that I filleted myself - not bad at all for a first attempt. This was followed by a sort of seafood spaghetti puttanesca with prawns, scallops and some more squid, in a spicy tomato sauce. I made some passata by blending a tin of chopped tomatoes and sieving it (technically Paul did that bit) and used that as the basis for the sauce with a couple of green chillies and some garlic. Very tasty indeed. :)
Okay, that's long enough I think. ;)