A Gift for the Gothic

By Lee, Chris | Newsweek, May 14, 2012 | Go to article overview

A Gift for the Gothic


Lee, Chris, Newsweek


Byline: Chris Lee

Tim Burton's latest is an ode to a '60s soap opera.

It's official: a Tim Burton sex scene is unlike anything you've ever seen. The director's new film, Dark Shadows, features some aerial fornication between reluctant vampire Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) and vengeful witch Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green) that not only makes the walls shake, they threaten to fall down. The two ricochet from ceiling to couch to wall, clawing each other's backs and smashing everything around them. Not bad for Burton's first time showing some sexytime action on screen.

His films always seem to exist in a parallel universe, a stylized realm of whimsy that can pack the visceral punch of an LSD hallucination. While Beetlejuice and Batman combined the director's untamed imagination with an unvarnished commerciality, adapting the '60s soap opera Dark Shadows created another challenge.

"This movie really felt like an experiment," Burton says, hunching forward on a sofa in a Las Vegas hotel suite. "Like, What is it? On the set, I never thought of it as a comedy, and when people saw the humor, it kind of surprised me. I never thought of it as a vampire movie, either. It's treading weird territory."

Unlike the film (in theaters May 11), the series played the melodrama straight, and evolved into a pop-culture phenomenon during its run from 1966 to '71. As a young boy growing up in Kentucky, Depp idolized Barnabas Collins, and five years ago, he optioned the rights for Burton to direct. "The tone was tough for the studio at first," says Dark Shadows producer Richard Zanuck. "But any project with Tim and Johnny--if they brought in the phone book, the studio would basically give them a green light to film it."

With a screenplay by Seth Grahame-Smith of the genre-blurring bestseller Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and this summer's Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, the film is a rollicking mashup-- part Gothic romance, part horror sendup, and part macabre fish-out-of-water tale.

The drama kicks off in the late 1700s when aristocratic playboy Barnabas spurns the servant turned witch Angelique Bouchard. In turn, she ruins his family, kills his true love, and renders him a creature of the night; a mob buries the newly minted vampire in a coffin. …

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