In the 1700s, the Collins family traveled over from Liverpool to start a fishery in the young American north. As the family’s business and the surrounding town grew, a young Barnabas rose to status and became quite the playboy. When he rejected the advances of Angelique Bouchard, she used her witch powers to curse his family, killing his parents and dooming anyone he ever loved. When his true love fell to her death, he attempted to fall to the same fate but was transformed into a vampire before he could perish. With the town turned on him, Barnabas is captured and buried alive. After two centuries of solitude, he is awakened to experience a world that has transformed and return to a family on the brink of collapse. Reuniting with the remaining Collins family, Barnabas vows to devote himself to his relatives and reestablish their family business. Standing in his way is a familiar face, who owns the rival company that has taken the market on the east coast.
Starring: Johnny Depp (Barnabas Collins), Michelle Pfeiffer (Elizabeth Collins Stoddard), Helena Bonham Carter (Dr. Julia Hoffman), Eva Green (Angelique Bouchard), Jackie Earle Haley (Willie Loomis), Johnny Lee Miller (Roger Collins), Bella Heathcote (Victoria Winters / Josette DuPres), Chloe Grace Moretz (Carolyn Stoddard), Gulliver McGrath (David Collins), Christopher Lee (Clarney), Alice Cooper (himself)
While there may be a lack of development of the characters, the casting actually fits the style and atmosphere of the film. Johnny Depp leads the way as Barnabas Collins, a man plucked out of the 1700s and lost in the modern world. As he initially explores the world around him, there is a great curiosity in his character, but the energy fades as he does not seem to truly integrate in with the modern culture. Michelle Pfeiffer has a powerful sternness to her character, as she leads the lost souls of the family as they attempt to stay afloat. There is little development of her character’s plights other than the success of Angelique’s fishing business. Helena Bonham Carter is a staple when Johnny Depp is concerned, though she takes a bit of a back seat in the film and contribute little more than another dysfunctional element of the family. Eva Green is probably the strongest actress of the film, as she maintains an obsessive intensity that goes above and beyond her peers. Chloe Grace Moretz and Gulliver McGrath both have their quirks but their characters remain underdeveloped until their special backgrounds are revealed in an instant near the end of the film.
Tim Burton always finds himself taking on darker projects, like this story of a man transformed into a vampire and locked away to live again in the distant future. The focus of the first part of the film, other than the background to how Barnabas became a vampire, is to exhibit the difficulty of a man frozen in time to adjust to life in a whole new age. Technology, electricity and the social atmosphere have evolved dramatically, making Barnabas feel like an relic in comparison. While the curse placed on him was meant to punish him for his dissonance with Angelique, his curse affected many of the people around him. Before he was buried alive, he experienced the loss of his parents and the love of his life, with the curse extended to their descendants. In his vampire state, unsuspecting humans were also in danger of his blood lust. The curse turned him immortal, but Angelique was not finished with him just because he was locked away, allowing for the torture to continue.
The film is interesting in that it feels very much like a Tim Burton film, all the way down to the shortcomings of a lack of character development and inability to sustain the energy of the story. There were times when the film felt colorful while also lacking depth and feeling as lifeless as Barnabas’s heart. The middle part of the film, when Barnabas is working on the reestablishment of the family’s business and combats with a vengeful Angelique, the dialogue feels drawn out and lacks energy. His wild sex scene was overly integrated into the preview. Regarding the character development, there is backstory and Barnabas’s history is explained, but that is about it. Angelique’s obsession with Barnabas is only explained at a surface level. Elizabeth Collins explains the makeup of the family living at the estate, but it too is also only surface level. When things begin to get crazy near the end of the film (which was surprising considering the action of the rest of the story), characters reveal significant secrets about themselves so quickly that they feel inappropriate.
The basic story and the visual presentation is entertaining, but there are too many issues with this film to consider it a success. Better character development with everyone except for Barnabas would have been a positive change for the adaptation of this story.
Dan’s Rating: 2.5/5