End of the Year Excitement… For “Dark Shadows”

By Valerie Dunn
Elm Staff Writer

As a self-proclaimed film snob, I often view the late spring and summer cinema marquees with something usually associated with the reaction to being diagnosed with a terminal disease. This exaggeration is largely because I have never been diagnosed with a terminal disease. Nevertheless, when I finally have time to view so many films that my eyeballs fall into my popcorn bowl, I would like to have surrendered my eyes to something of a higher quality than boy meets girl and girl falls in love because boy sparkles.

Don’t misunderstand me; this summer I look forward to the return of Batman in “The Dark Knight Rises” and I will definitely see “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.” But the voice inside my head, which sounds eerily similar to the stuffy speak of Dame Maggie Smith, laments the abysmal lack of dramatic biopics and period pieces.

Is it too much to want an intellectually stimulating film while I enjoy my summer vacation?
“Yes,” my overworked, sleep-deprived mind cries. This voice decidedly does not belong to Dame Maggie Smith. In fact, my end of semester psyche sounds a lot like raging Nic Cage.

Perhaps it is a necessary evil that we must sacrifice intellectualism for entertainment in the warm summer months. Maybe it isn’t even an evil. What is a misfortune, however, is when films compromise art for cheap entertainment.

Forgive me while I attempt, and fail, to silence my bias.

Film, as I have expressed before and will continue to believe, is an art. As I reactivate my Netflix account and readjust my queue, I certainly hope so. Art can be entertainment. Entertainment can be art. And if any man can reassure my worried, cinema-bound soul of film as both art and entertainment, he is that singular visionary Tim Burton.

Burton-bashers need read no further, because I harbor nothing but excitement at the May 11 release of Burton’s “Dark Shadows.” Based loosely on the soap opera of the same name that aired from 1966-1971, “Dark Shadows” follows vampire Barnabas Collins as he returns from the coffin to his manor, Collinwood. However, Barnabas’s time in the coffin has seen the ruin of his gothic and grand home. His family has also left a legacy that is as quirky as it is creepy.

I need hardly tell you that Johnny Depp plays the pale and bloodthirsty Barnabas, but I do so anyway with girlish giggles of delight. If I seem overeager to see Depp as a ravenous vampire, then I am absolutely dying to see Helena Bonham Carter as the aging alcoholic live-in psychiatrist of Collinwood, Dr. Julia Hoffman. Joining Burton’s muses, Michelle Pfeiffer stars as the matriarch of Collinwood and Eva Green as the witch who tries to bring down the manor.

The trailer promised a super fly array of disco music in addition Danny Elfman’s work as the film’s composer. Moreover, costumes by Colleen Atwood feature patterns so psychedelic lava lamps are jealous. But it is Burton’s talent for creating visual wonders, worlds of unusual escape, which will ultimately draw cinemas into “Dark Shadows.”

Yes, it will be campy. Nevertheless, if at the end of “Dark Shadows” my eyeballs are in the popcorn, Burton and I will both be pleased.

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