★★★ ½ A-
Directed by Tim Burton
Story by Johnny Depp (uncredited), John August, and Seth Grahame-Smith
Screenplay by Seth Grahame-Smith
Based on the series by Dan Curtis
Johnny Depp: Barnabas Collins
Michelle Pfiffer: Elizabeth Collins Stoddard
Eva Green: Angelique Bouchard/Witch
Bella Heathcote: Victoria Winters/Josette DuPress
Helena Bonham Carter: Dr. Julia Hoffman
Chloë Grace Moretz: Carolyn Stoddard
Gulliver McGrath: David Collins
Jackie Earle Haley: Willie Loomis
Jonny Lee Miller: Roger Collins
Christopher Lee: Clarney
Alice Cooper: Himself
This is a very good movie. Its funny, charming, and clever, however, its climax lacks the same energy that the rest of the film has, and I actually blame Danny Elfman for it.
The story is completely bizarre. It begins in the fictional town of Collinsport somewhere in New England in 1776. Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) falls in love with a woman named Josette (Bella Heathcote), which causes an evil witch, maddened with jealousy for Barnabas, curses the Collins family, murders Josette and transforms him into a vampire. When she turns the town against him, Barnabas is locked in a coffin for eternity.
By 1972, the Collins family – who founded Collinsport and used to be its most prominent family – has practically fallen to ruins. They are as dysfunctional as they can be. Elizabeth (Michelle Pfiefer) is the head of the family who, along with her thieving husband Roger (Jonny Lee Miller), daughter Carolyn (Chloë Grace Moretz), son, David (Gulliver McGrath), groundskeeper Willie Loomis (Jackie Earle Haley), unhelpful house maid Mrs. Johnson (Ray Shirley), and a sham psychiatrist (Helena Bonham Carter), lives in the dilapidated Collinswood manor. Meanwhile, Angelique (who is the same witch as before) (Eva Green) has been reincarnating herself for the past 200 years and has taken over 95% of the areas fishing industry under the guise of CEO of Angel Bay.
We however are introduced to the city through the eyes of Veronica Winters (also, Bella Heathcote) who is the spitting image of Josette who arrives in Collinsport from New York City in search of the position of Governess. At the same time she arrives however, a construction crew happens upon Barnabas’s coffin and releases him from his prison. After a great deal of well-crafted fish-out-of-water comedy, Barnabas arrives at Collinwood and declares that he will help save his family business. All the while, trying to fit into 1970’s America, win the heart of Victoria, deal with his love-hate relationship with Angelique, murdering Hippies, reading Love Story (by Eric Segal), and finding the a comfortable mattress for himself.
Depp delivers a brilliant performance as expected. The performances are also fantastic for Miller, Bonham Carter, and Haley. However, it was Pfiefer, Moretz, Heathcote, and Christopher Lee who gave the best performances, save Depp. Pfiefer nailed her role of a hesitantly modernizing family patriarch trying to hold on to the last drop of honor the Collins family has. Moretz deserves credit for simply making Carolyn a viable role. Despite the fact that he was able to write Victoria and Elizabeth, screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith, did an inconsistent job writing convincing dialogue for Carolyn and Angelique. However, this is the first movie based off on of his scripts, along with the upcoming Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Killer based off his own novel. This is why I must give Moretz credit for delivering each line with the same effort as she did on Hugo, 30Rock, and Kick-Ass even though her lines were no were near as well written. Bella Heathcote is an actress with whom I am utterly unfamiliar. The fact that she could hold her own as a love interest opposite Depp is already fantastic, let alone the fact that she pulled double duty playing two parts. Christopher Lee, a consistently excellent and experienced actor who seems to be in every movie nowadays, makes a fantastically executed cameo appearance as Clarney, a sea captain who works for Angelique who gets manipulated by Barnabas’s hypnotism/black magic. Also, seeing Alice Cooper in this film was fantastic!
I had two problems with Eva Green’s performance. First off, it lacked subtlety, which is something I can get over in Burton film because her character is supposed to be quite over the top. Secondly, it seemed as though she was a nymphomaniac. Certainly, some of that was helpful to the story and, as I said before, Grahame-Smith didn’t write her the most consistant or exemplary dialogue, but he didn’t write her character as if she an actor in a pornographic film either. Quite frankly, I find her delivery to be so sexually charged, it distracted somewhat from the story. Not to say, that she did a poor job, but I can’t help but feel that someone like Anne Hathaway might have brought more to the table.
Lastly, my final complaint is that the end seemed anti-climactic. One of the major reasons for this I believe was the fact the film used a score mainly comprised of 60’s and 70’s rock ‘n’ roll songs that kept the mood constantly fresh and exciting. However the climax consisted of a very dramatic, solemn orchestral piece by composer Danny Elfman, which resulted in the climax’s energy to be more somber than the rest of the film, going against most filmmaking techniques.
Overall though, very well acted and a really fun movie. Nice job, Mr. Burton.