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Dark Shadows available on Blu-ray Combo pack, DVD and for download 10/2!


In my youth, I remember racing home from school each day to get my daily fix of horror- after all you couldn't beat a soap opera that featured vampires, werewolves, witches and other supernatural beasties... at least as far as that horror addicted child that I used to be was concerned. Far too many years later, I was delighted to learn that the horror tinged Dan Curtis soap opera, which I still fondly remember, was being turned into a feature film. And of course, the cherry on my horror sundae was the fact that Tim Burton was directing and Johnny Depp was starring in the theatrical remake of DARK SHADOWS ($36). Now despite some less than enthusiastic reviews from the big name critics, my personal enthusiasm for DARK SHADOWS never wavered... nor was I disappointed when I went to see the film theatrically. Sure, DARK SHADOWS may not be as successful as many of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp's other collaborations, but the movie version of the horror soap gets more things right than it gets wrong. Personally, I found DARK SHADOWS to be a delightful mixture of over-the-top soap opera melodrama and horror, with more than a smattering of tongue-in-cheek humor thrown in for good measure. Of course, Johnny Depp always delivers the goods with a decidedly deadpan performance that nails his character's fish out of water culture shock experience.

The movie version of DARK SHADOWS focuses on the character of Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) and offers a plot similar to the introduction of said character into what was an already established (albeit foundering) soap opera. DARK SHADOWS begins with a prologue in set in 1760, which shows the well-to-do Collins family, including their young son, migrating from Liverpool, England to America. Once in America, Barnabas' father establishes a fishing village in Maine named Collinsport, in which the family prospers even further. Years pass, and young Barnabas grows to manhood, and eventually, the the young master of the household has a dalliance with a family maid named Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green). Although Angelique professes her love for Barnabas, he rejects her... something that proves ill-advised, as Angelique is a witch who uses her powers to avenge herself on Barnabas' parents. Time passes, and Barnabas comes to fall in love with Josette du Pres (Bella Heathcote), whom the jealous Angelique bewitches into suicide. Barnabas tries to follow Josette into the grave, but Angelique wishes his suffering to continue... thus cursing her former lover to immortality and making him a vampire. Angelique then has Barnabas chained and buried in an iron coffin, where she intends him to continue his lonely suffering... forever.

Flash forward to 1972... Construction workers accidentally release Barnabas, who quenches his one-hundred-ninety-six-year-old thirst on the throats of his unfortunate rescuers. Returning to Collinwood, Barnabas encounters the dysfunctional descendants of the Collins family living in the manor home, which lies in a state of decay, along with the family fortunes. The handful of remaining Collins family members includes matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer); her brother Roger (Jonny Lee Miller); Elizabeth's 15-year-old daughter Carolyn (ChloŽ Grace Moretz); Roger's 10-year-old son David (Gulliver McGrath). Also residing in the household are David's psychiatrist Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter), the estate's caretaker Willie Loomis (Jackie Earle Haley) and David's governess Victoria Winters (also Bella Heathcote), who bares more than a striking resemblance to Barnabas' long lost love Josette. Barnabas reveals who and what he is Elizabeth, but is allowed to remain at the manor when he makes it plain that family is all that matters to him now and has means to restore both the family fortunes and the failing fishing business. Of course, one hiccup remains- it seems Angelique hasn't aged a day- nor has her vendetta against the Collins family. The cast of DARK SHADOWS also features Christopher Lee and Alice Cooper. If you blink, you may miss cameos from original series stars Jonathan Frid, Lara Parker, David Selby and Kathryn Leigh Scott.

Warner Home Video has made DARK SHADOWS available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. DARK SHADOWS is a highly stylized and ultimately gorgeous looking film that is beautifully rendered by an excellent 1080p presentation. With largely subdued hues and splashes of intense color, Bruno Delbonnel's cinematography has a slightly antiqued quality that gives the flavor of another era. The image is sharp and well defined, although it is a bit softer and denser than most newer films, which appears to be intentional to the stylized look of cinematography. Blacks are on the money, as are the whites. Contrast has been tweaked to the stylized look of the film. Shadow detail is intentionally limited with the darkness becoming the densest visual element. The elements from which DARK SHADOWS has been mastered demonstrate virtually no imperfections. A fine level of grain gives the image a nicely organic appearance.

DARK SHADOWS is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. More talky than action packed, DARK SHADOWS features an atmospheric, understated, but otherwise excellent sound design. All the discrete channels are well implemented for sound effects placement, plus the effects move about around the sound field effectively at key moments. There are plenty of atmospheric and environmental sound effects, which envelope the viewer in the world of DARK SHADOWS. Thanks to the lossless encode, there is terrific clarity for the film’s music... both Danny Elfman's score, and the seventies era pop music. In addition, the lossless encode bolsters the sound effects. The bottom end of the track is weighty, but not artificially boomy. French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the disc, as are English and Spanish subtitles.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as, as well as the supplements. DARK SHADOWS features Warner Brothers immersive Maximum Movie Mode, which offers picture-in-picture popup windows that contain ancillary programs that look at the film’s production (requires a Profile 1.1 player). Programs from the Maximum Movie Mode are also available to view independently as a series of Focus Points that include Becoming Barnabas, Welcome To Collinsport, The Collins: Every Family Has Its Demons, Reliving A Decade, Angelique: A Witch Scorned, Alice Cooper Rocks Collinsport, Dark Shadowy Secrets, A Melee Of Monstrous Proportions and Dark Shadows: The Legend Bites Back. Some Deleted Scenes close out the standard supplements. Disc two offers a DVD copy of the movie for those who are still on the fence about making the upgrade to Blu-ray. An authorization code is provided for an UltraViolet Digital Copy of the film, which is just a stream away.

DARK SHADOWS isn't a perfect film, but it is one I liked quite a bit. The Blu-ray presentation can't be faulted. Recommended to Depp and Burton fans.


Dark Shadows (Blu-ray + DVD + Ultraviolet Digital Copy Combo Pack) (2012)


DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright © 2012 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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