Dark Shadows Begins Filming

Filming has officially begun on the Tim Burton film “Dark Shadows,” the latest adaptation of the cult classic, a gothic soap opera from the late 1960s.

“Dark Shadows” focused on a guilt-ridden vampire and his modern-day family in Maine. Two previous attempts to reboot the television series as a weekly primetime drama ultimately never really took off. But the show did inspire an Off Off Broadway play in the 1980s as well as two previous motion pictures in the early 1970s. Johnny Depp, a huge fan of the show in childhood, bought the rights and ultimately persuaded pal Burton to do the film. Seth Grahame-Smith (“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”) wrote a screenplay, based on the basic story as adapted by John August (“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”) derived from the original series. In keeping with that, evidently the film is set in the period as the original television show! This makes an interesting trend with several vampire films coming out lately set a generation or so in the past–including “Let Me In” (whose Chloe Grace Moretz is in “Dark Shadows”) and “Styria” (based on the classic novella “Carmilla”).

Here at last is an official plot description from a press release:

“In the year 1752, Joshua and Naomi Collins, with young son Barnabas, set sail from Liverpool, England to start a new life in America. But even an ocean was not enough to escape the mysterious curse that has plagued their family. Two decades pass and Barnabas (Johnny Depp) has the world at his feet—or at least the town of Collinsport, Maine. The master of Collinwood Manor, Barnabas is rich, powerful and an inveterate playboy…until he makes the grave mistake of breaking the heart of Angelique Brouchard (Eva Green). A witch, in every sense of the word, Angelique dooms him to a fate worse than death: turning him into a vampire, and then burying him alive.

Two centuries later, Barnabas is inadvertently freed from his tomb and emerges into the very changed world of 1972. He returns to Collinwood Manor to find that his once-grand estate has fallen into ruin. The dysfunctional remnants of the Collins family have fared little better, each harboring their own dark secrets. Matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer) has called upon live-in psychiatrist, Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter), to help with her family troubles.

Also residing in the manor is Elizabeth’s ne’er-do-well brother, Roger Collins (Jonny Lee Miller); her rebellious teenage daughter Carolyn Stoddard (Moretz); and Roger’s precocious 10-year-old son, David Collins (Gulliver McGrath). The mystery extends beyond the family, to caretaker Willie Loomis, played by Jackie Earle Haley, and David’s new nanny, Victoria Winters, played by Bella Heathcote.”

Previously it was thought Michael Sheen (of “Underworld” and “Twilight”) fame might have played Roger, but he indicated recently that wouldn’t be happening. Instead Jonny Lee Miller will portray the brandy-sipping Collins younger brother. Lee previously appeared in several Jane Austen adaptatons, such as “Emma” and “Mansfield Park” but may perhaps best be known recently as Jordon Chase–the mastermind serial rapist and murderer who locked horns with the title character in “Dexter” last season. He also played an antiques dealer-turned-vampire hunter opposite Gerard Butler in “Dracula 2000.”
Thomas McDonnell, in the current release “Prom,” plays a younger Barnabas Collins, presumably in the 1752 sequence.

For fans of the show, two major elements appear different from the original storyline (each version has had variations, and one could write a book listing them all). One is the hint that instead of two mansions on the Collins estate, this outline hints at only one. Second is the total lack of mention of Josette, the woman Barnabas loved in the 18th century but lost when the jealous Angelique turned him into a vampire. One must point out that if Josette is dropped, then the story avoids what has become a cliche–namely, the reincarnated former lost love of the vampire in the form of Victoria Winters. Such would certainly streamline what was a convoluted plotline (Angelique being Josette’s maid, Barnabas having an affair with her, trying to break it off, her cursing him for it, Josette killing herself rather than becoming a vampire herself, a resurrected Barnabas trying to turn a lookalike into Josette while falling for Victoria who in some versions is the lookalike and the reincarnated Josette then travels back in time to unsuccessfully try to save herself…etc.).

Colleen Atwood (“Alice in Wonderland” “Silence of the Lambs” etc.) is doing costumes while Danny Elfman (“Ed Wood” “Nightmare Before Christmas”) is again composing music for a Burton film. The film is scheduled for a 2012 release.

By david

David MacDowell Blue blogs at Night Tinted Glasses.  He graduated from the National Shakespeare Conservatory and is the author of The Annotated Carmilla. and Your Vampire Story (And How to Write It) as well as a theatrical adaptation of Carmilla.


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  10. Cool report, thanks! I’m looking forward to reading more developments on this intriguing reboot.

    Rorschach playing Willie Loomis? Killer.

    Jim Fyfe was brilliant in the role for the 1990s DARK SHADOWS tv show.

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