Eccentric, memorable characters have proven to be Johnny Depp's forte, and his sometimes amusing, often disturbing, occasionally heartbreaking portrayal of the cursed and conflicted Barnabas Collins adds another such performance to his body of work. Dark Shadows, inspired by the late '60s/early '70s TV series, marks Depp's eighth collaboration with director Tim Burton. (Unlike the series, the film is rated PG-13 for sexual content, comic horror violence, some drug use, smoking, and language.)
Heir to a wealthy fisheries family in late 18th century Maine, Collins spurns the attentions of his servant Angelique (Eva Green) and marries the young, angelic Josette DuPres (Bella Heathcote). Unbeknownst to Collins, Angelique happens to be a witch and retaliates by slaying Collins' parents and his lovely bride, turning Collins into a vampire, and burying him deep underground. Fast forward to 1972, when construction workers find Collins' casket and release him into a world where his estate is rundown and occupied by his dysfunctional descendants and Angelique is head of Angel Bay, one of the country's most successful fisheries, which has essentially put the Collins family out of business.
As this 18th century gentleman vampire attempts to restore his family's company, his interactions with his descendants and surroundings offer ample opportunity for humor. When he first meets his 15-year-old female relation Carolyn (Chloë Grace Moretz), her attire leads him to think she's a prostitute. In another scene, he mistakes the McDonald's golden arches for a symbol of Mephistopheles.
As a vampire who desperately wishes for mortality, who declares that he loses a piece of his soul every time he kills someone to feed, Collins possesses a heightened sense of evil and morality. His attempts to court the young governess Victoria (also portrayed by Heathcote) tragically infect his thinking, though, when their conversation veers into self-indulgent relativism. Victoria declares that as long as something makes you happy, it matters not what you believe. Collins has clearly not considered this concept before, and the seed planted leads him to wrestle with what was previously unimaginable: that he could let his own happiness supersede deep convictions.