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Expect the unexpected in 'Dark Shadows'

Burton and Depp team up for another winning film with this gothic comedy

By Tricia Cathcart
On May 15, 2012

The pairing of eccentric director Tim Burton and handsomely adaptable Johnny Depp is one that we've become increasingly aware of in recent years.

Imagined by Burton and acted into life by Depp, roles such as Edward Scissorhands and Sweeny Todd showcase the dark humor and talent that the two share.

"Alice in Wonderland" (2010) and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" (2005) entertained audiences with a funny and offbeat aesthetic that continues into the duo's newest, "Dark Shadows."

Burton's "Dark Shadows" is a tongue-in-cheek homage to the campy 1970's television series of the same name, which among its many story lines depicted a vampire in a never-ending search for his lost love, Josette (played by Bella Heathcote in Burton's version).

Depp plays bourgeoisie vampire Barnabas Collins, cursed into immortality in 1750 by his rejected lover, the witch Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green), who then buries him alive.

He wakes up in 1972 to learn his castle manor's glory has faded, along with the lives of the Collins descendants (Michelle Pfeiffer, Johnny Lee Miller and Chloe Grace Moretz). Barnabas is determined to restore the family name and fortune from the witch.

Depp described his vision for the role in an interview with Vanity Fair. "I wanted Barnabas to come across as ... this very elegant upper echelon, well-schooled gentleman who's cursed in the 18th century and brought back to probably the most surreal era of our time - the 1970s - and how he would react to things," he said.

"Not just with technology and automobiles and such, but actual items of enjoyment for people, like pet rocks, fake flowers, plastic fruit, troll dolls, lava lamps and the macramé owls."

The film follows suit with Burton's past creations, depicting an other-wordly feeling as early as its opening credits. Much of this is thanks to the excellent production design, courtesy of the director's longtime collaborator Rick Henrichs, who won an Oscar for his part on Burton's "Sleepy Hollow," which also featured Depp in the starring role.

Burton and Depp discovered their fondness for the original television series on the set of "Sweeney Todd," and from that moment on, the two knew that "Dark Shadows" was an adaptation they must attempt. Depp explains in his interview with Vanity Fair that he and Burton wanted to create a vampire who didn't rely on his sex appeal to win over audiences.

"I think I just blurted out mid-conversation, God, maybe we should do a vampire movie together where you actually have a vampire that looks like a vampire," said Depp.

"'Dark Shadows' was kind of looming on the periphery. Then Tim and I started talking about it. [...] One thing led to another and it basically dictated to us what it wanted to be, in a sense, certainly with Tim at the forefront of leading the troops."

Part comedy, part horror flick, "Dark Shadows" brings the perfect amount of humorous gore and quirky one-liners from the characters into an unexpected story line.

Also making an appearance in the film is Burton's wife, Helena Bonham Carter, not a surprise to the director's fans, as she appears in nearly as many of his works as Depp does. Carter, Depp and Burton work together with ease to create the gothic humor that "Dark Shadows" thrives on.

Even Alice Cooper shows up for an unexpected cameo. Whether you're familiar with the original series or just a fan or Burton's previous work, "Dark Shadows" is one you can't miss.

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