‘Dark Shadows’: Ruminations On Vampire Movie Plot

How true to the 1960s original TV series will Tim Burton's adaptation be?

If you like your vampires dark, monstrous and allergic to sunlight — as opposed to sparkling and smoldering with teenage angst — this story’s for you. We’ll be diving deep into the world of “Dark Shadows,” director Tim Burton’s big-screen adaptation of the classic late-’60s/ early-’70s otherworldly soap opera, which will feature Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Chloë Moretz and Helena Bonham Carter.

Unlike some of 2012′s other tentpole releases, like “The Hunger Games,” “The Dark Knight Rises” and “The Avengers,” “Dark Shadows” isn’t as present in the collective national consciousness because its source material is more than 40 years old. Many people may not even know that it is based on a sprawling, 1,225-episode melodrama about 200-year-old vampire Barnabas Collins (Depp), who is reawakened in the late 1960s and tries to forge a relationship with his descendants and a familiar-seeming governess without revealing his dark secret.

Yes, Tim Burton is making a good old-fashioned vampire movie. Early set pictures indicate he is keeping with the Gothic aesthetic that set the TV show — and its short-lived 1991 reincarnation — apart from just about anything else on the tube.

“It goes back to Tim’s roots,” Moretz told MTV News at this year’s Spike Scream Awards. “It goes back to the true Tim, and I love it because he gets in it. He’s in that little circle with Michelle and Helena and Johnny, and it just, it happens. Everything goes down in the movie.”

Not much is known about the plot of the top-secret production.
However, we recently gleaned a little bit of info from three-time-Oscar-winning costume designer Colleen Atwood that should give fans of the show at least some insight into what Burton and Co. are cooking up for the May 11, 2012, release.

“There’re some period scenes in the movie as well, so it goes back and forth, without totally giving away everything,” Atwood said.

The soap’s story line was so sprawling that it was hard to even venture a guess which elements of the original’s plot would make it into Burton’s film. What follows is speculation, yes, but Atwood’s assurance that we will be traveling back and forth in time points to a specific story from the original that was also central to the ’90s re-vamp (pun intended).

During a séance at Collinwood mansion, Victoria Winters (played here by newcomer Bella Heathcote) is transported back to 1795, to the time immediately before Barnabas was turned into a vampire by his former lover Angelique (Eva Green), a witch with a mean jealous streak.

In 1795, Winters is accused of being the source of Angelique’s witchcraft and is sentenced to hang. However, before she can make it to the gallows, she returns to the present — in the case of the series, 1968 — with full knowledge of Barnabas’ tortured secret.

There’s so much plot centered in this one story thread from the series — the backstory of Barnabas’ fiancée Josette, who flings herself off a cliff to avoid becoming a vampire, among them — that we’re not sure how Burton is going to cram it all into a two-hour movie. But we sure can’t wait to see him try.

There are many other incidents of time travel in the series — Barnabas at one point travels to 1897 to try to rectify a haunting situation in the present — but the fact that Heathcote is credited on the film’s IMDb page as both Victoria Winters and Josette duPres only further supports our idea that Burton is filming the story of Barnabas’ discovery in the present by Willie Loomis (Oscar nominee Jackie Earle Haley) and his transformation into a vampire in the past.

Also, Helena Bonham Carter’s presence as Dr. Julia Hoffman hints that we also may get a taste of a separate story in which Hoffman tries to cure Barnabas’ vampirism so he can be with Victoria Winters, who he believes to be Josette’s reincarnation.

It all kind of fits together a little too perfectly, wouldn’t you agree? Does it all work out? We’re not telling … yet!

Do you have any favorite stories from the original series you’re hoping Burton, Depp, Pfeiffer and Co. bring to life on the big screen? Sound off in the comments below and tweet me at @JohnMitchell83 with your thoughts and suggestions for future columns!

Check out everything we’ve got on “Dark Shadows.”

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