Vampires may be forever undead in pop culture, but it took Johnny Depp and Tim Burton to bring Barnabas Collins back to life in a big way.
Love-besotted and (thus even more) dangerous, the Maine vampire never really went away, and neither did "Dark Shadows," his Gothic soap opera. But not until now has the resuscitation been completely successful.
Long story, not short: the also love-besotted, plus spurned and vengeful servant Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green) used witchcraft to curse Barnabas' family, kill his parents, send his beloved Josette DuPres (Bella Heathcote) plummeting to her death, turned him into a vampire, and, for completeness sake, had him chained in a coffin and buried undead in the woods beyond Collinsport.
Now he's back, aiming to fix up the mansion and revive the family cannery. Oh, yes, and to pledge his heart to that new governess, "Victoria," who looks just like Josette. Obviously running from or toward something, she's changed her name and turned up at the manse's great knockers to look after young David Collins, who has been able to see ghosts ever since his mother was drowned at sea by Angelique, who never goes out of style or, apparently, out of town.
And that's not to mention the current clan matriarch, Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, a very sharp Michelle Pfeiffer. She's happy for the breath of fresh air, or non-breath of stale air, whatever air it is that the restored Barnabas brings from "England" to the atmospheric manor house. Plus, he remembers where he stashed a fortune in coins, jewels and objets d' art, so there's that.
Elizabeth has a husband who is, um, missing and about whom we shall speak no more. She has a surly but observant teenage daughter, Carolyn (Chloë Grace Moretz), and a feckless brother, Roger (Jonny Lee Miller). The Collinses have two loyal if ineffectual retainers, Willie (Jackie earle Haley) and Mrs. Johnson (Ray Shirley).
There's also an in-manse psychiatrist, Dr. Julia Hoffman, Helena Bonham Carter with tangerine-colored hair. She's there to perhaps help David, perhaps to help Barnabas, or perhaps to tangle more strands of plot.
Did we mention that all this is taking place in 1972? What with a surfeit of Alice Cooper is only slightly less disorienting to modern sensibilities than it is to the newly unearthed 220-year-old Barnabas Collins. The last time he checked, it was still the 18th Century.
All that doesn't make for a snappy summary, especially since we've hardly gotten past the introductory voiceover. But remember, Dan Curtis's original show generated 1,225 episodes and gave no signs of running out of complications until ABC buried it alive, so there's a lot meat on those bones.
But here's a key point, the cancellation came more for financial analysis than poor ratings, even if the show often seemed to be made on a budget of hundreds of dollars. The first horror soap opera, at least by intention, the original "Dark Shadows was a hit among young people, those 18-35-year-olds that almost every advertiser now wants, but in that medieval era were considered to have insufficient disposable income.
It's almost as though the show was cursed, or something, since a bigger budget 1991 revival was interrupted by the Gulf War and soon cancelled.