Dark Shadows is the next chance for Tim Burton to succeed, and he’s playing in a very familiar sandbox. A too-familiar sandbox for some, but there’s still hope that in retuning to Gothic roots in a passion project for Johnny Depp, the director can recapture some magic.

The one mystery about the movie is what kind of tone it will take. The television show is well known enough, but the movie could take it seriously, keep the camp, or shoot for something entirely different. Fortunately, there’s a plot synopsis  lurking about (thanks to a Warner Bros. press release announcing the start of filming). Unfortunately, it won’t tell us anything about the tone.

Read the synopsis for yourself and try to figure out if Burton and company are going more Scissorhands or more Ed Wood here:

“In the year 1752, Joshua and Naomi Collins, with young son Barnabas, set sail from Liverpool, England to start a new life in America. But even an ocean was not enough to escape the mysterious curse that has plagued their family. Two decades pass and Barnabas (Johnny Depp) has the world at his feet—or at least the town of Collinsport, Maine. The master of Collinwood Manor, Barnabas is rich, powerful and an inveterate playboy…until he makes the grave mistake of breaking the heart of Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green). A witch, in every sense of the word, Angelique dooms him to a fate worse than death: turning him into a vampire, and then burying him alive.

Two centuries later, Barnabas is inadvertently freed from his tomb and emerges into the very changed world of 1972. He returns to Collinwood Manor to find that his once-grand estate has fallen into ruin. The dysfunctional remnants of the Collins family have fared little better, each harboring their own dark secrets. Matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer) has called upon live-in psychiatrist, Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter), to help with her family troubles.

Also residing in the manor is Elizabeth’s ne’er-do-well brother, Roger Collins, (Jonny Lee Miller); her rebellious teenage daughter Carolyn Stoddard (Chloe Moretz); and Roger’s precocious 10-year-old son, David Collins (Gulliver McGrath). The mystery extends beyond the family, to caretaker Willie Loomis (Jackie Earle Haley) and David’s new nanny, Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcote).”

This sounds more like a long-winded version of the first ten minutes leading up to a description of the characters that will populate the second and third acts. So, it’s sort of a let down. I can’t imagine the film won’t want to get to 1972 as fast as possible (just like a time traveler desperate to see the Sapporo Winter Olympics in person) and get to their star-laden cast.

What the movie is actually about is anyone’s guess. Maybe about restoring the mansion and its honor? Maybe it’ll follow the television show’s footsteps and have some simple conceit like werewolf attacks or maybe, just maybe, it’ll be an intimate character study of a vampire and his new family.

Maybe.

What do you think?


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