17 May 2012

Same Old Bite


When it comes to film adaptations we seem to be getting rather desperate. These days, source material comes from books, computer games, life and fucking toys. It was bad enough when Michael Bay's cinema AIDs started infecting the screen with the grossly sexualised, misogynistic depiction of Cybotron's talking cogs but now others have begun to follow suit. Battleships was seemingly not only a Transformers rip off but also based on a game with less imagination than a trainspotting, dust enthusiast in a coma. Tim Burton's latest movie too is an adaptation but more forgivably of a 60/70's soap opera called Dark Shadows.

However, unlike the soap operas set here in Britain, Dark Shadows has a more supernatural element to it. Most of our shows are based in some form of realism although I've often assumed that the morbid grim-ness of Eastenders is due to it being set in a manic depressives head. In fact, our shows are so tediously dull that one of the most unbelievable aspects of them is simply how everybody knows each other. I've lived in the same house for over a decade but if one of my neighbours stabbed me in the tits, shouted their house number and then raped me I'd still wonder who they were. The closest our soaps get to dealing with the supernatural is probably Coronation Street's shambling corpse Ken Barlow. He's an actor who’s played that same part for so long that to fire him would probably require an exorcist more than it would a P45. It would be less like taking a man's job from him and more like removing the sets haunted book case. He just lingers and likely never leaves the set…

Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows starts with a typically gothic sequence set in a 1752 Liverpool which introduces us to the Collins family. As soon as they see a financial opportunity however, they leave the area and set up a business in America with no intent on returning. They're basically The Beatles of the canned food industry. As time rolls by, Barnabas Collins grows up into Johnny Depp, a promiscuous playboy whose undoing is a result of shagging the wrong girl. Back in Liverpool, this would have probably been someone named Gemma who pushes a pram around the docks and has a fanny full of clap. In America however, Barnabas sticks his cock into a witch who proceeds to curse him for not loving her enough. Turns out that no matter what period you live in, there's always some deranged bitch who’s watched The Notebook once too many (with once being too many).

As a result, Barnabas develops pale skin, a desire to kill and starts to sleep during the day. What separates him from the average scouser however is his need to drink blood. With Barnabas now obviously a vampire, his real true love does what Piers Morgan should and throws herself from a cliff to a violently painful death. Learning of his affliction the locals start to panic too. Reacting to their fears of vampires and Liverpudlian's they bury Barnabas alive before he can commit any crimes. With him safely chained up beneath the ground, the area is therefore devoid of both a murderous demon and the risk of benefit fraud for almost 200 years.

By 1972 the Collins family is in ruins. Their mansion is a wreck, their finances non-existent and their staff consists of one single stuttering inebriated Rorschach. Luckily for them however, there's a vampire buried in the garden who happens to have their best interests at heart. After accidentally digging him up like a fucking dead family pet, Barnabas makes it his mission to restore both their name and wealth to its former glory, though before he can do anything he must acclimatise himself to the grim realities of his present day.

As he runs about enjoying the 1970's, he kills a few hippies including Cassie from Skins, hypnotically manipulates people and worst of all, breaks a television. He also notices that the family’s new maid looks a Hell of a lot like the reincarnation of his old dead wife. Wooing her and rebuilding his canning business would however be a lot easier if it wasn't for the witch who originally cursed him. Like a typically obsessive ex-partner, the bitch is still roaming the local area and making his life a misery. At one point she even re-buries him with a pair of her knickers on his face. To be fair though, the witch is played by Eva Green so that sounds great to me. Sleeping all day long with an erection and the whiff of her sweaty French flaps isn't the worst thing that could ever happen.

So far the reviews for Dark Shadows have been fairly mixed. If the soulless Alice in Narnia is Burton's low point then I would say that his Forrest Gump/Freddie Krueger crossover Edward Scissorhands is his best. This latest Gothic effort is probably somewhere in between. It's not vacuous but nor is it particularly well balanced. Plot points just appear out of nowhere with the snarling Chlo-Mo conclusion being noticeably random. Speaking of Hit-Girl, if there are any paedophiles watching then you'll particularly enjoy the reference to her fingering herself. You can't get arrested for what you imagine, so for those with a taste for the young, it's jailbait-tastic. She's fifteen and I'm not a disgusting fucking kiddie fiddler so the thought does absolutely nothing for me. Not for another twelve months anyway.

The biggest problem here for me however was simply how neglected Barnabas's allegedly reincarnated wife was. She's so ignored throughout the whole film that she may as well have stayed fucking dead all along. Despite her darkly romantic conclusion, her screen time is the equivalent to that of a lamp shade or particularly eye-catching duvet. At least as a corpse she might receive some proper attention by having a morbidly lucky necrophile come across her. In my opinion, perhaps part of her problem is that she shares quite a lot of scenes with Michelle Pfeiffer. Where that sexy catwoman is concerned, I wouldn't notice if The Pope was next to her leaking rainbows from his tits and sucking off a novelty crucifix-shaped dildo. Therefore any moment in which Barnabas shows his suspected love any attention, you're simply drawn to how undervalued she has previously been.

On the plus side though there's plenty of the usual joy from the brain of Tim Burton. It's as typical as his films go but fuck it, that's what I like. If he wants to make gothic horror films with the same black eyed, pale faced actors over and over again, that's fine by me. Like Wes Anderson, Terry Gilliam and Ed Wood, his distinct style pisses off plenty of people which simply proves that not everybody can be right at once. Nobody expects Mike Leigh to make an action film or complained about the lack of explosions during Vera Drake’s abortion scenes, so why should Burton have to change?

Highlights here include Barnabas's ghoulish attacks, Eva Green’s tits and cameos from both Christopher Lee and Alice Cooper. Mr Lee is unfortunately nearing the end of his neck biting career and it's nice that we keep squeezing a few more performances out of him. That dark-lord fucker is too much of a legend to be sitting in an old folks home when there are horror films still being made. Alice Cooper on the other hand clearly hasn't aged a day since 1972. Although in his case, the trick was to start off looking like a man in his mid-sixties and spend the next four decades already partly decomposed. At one point, Barnabas's refers to the ageing rocker as, “the ugliest woman I've ever seen”, which despite being funny simply means he is yet to lay eyes on Paris Hilton.

The tone might be wonky and it's not as funny as the trailer suggests but Dark Shadows is still worth a watch. In a way, by setting up so many various sub-plots, it kind of feels like a highly produced television pilot which then suddenly has to tie everything up at the end. Sort of like those annoying porn videos which are five minutes of blow-job followed by one minute of mechanically, joyless grunting and shagging. Dark Shadows is Burton working below his best but even his average is better than anything Michael Bay or the director of Battleships could come up with. It might be an oddity- and for the wrong reasons, but in a world of blandness and idiocy that is still something that should be appreciated. 

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