In 1991 my parents rudely woke us
from our slumber, excited to announce that there was a show
about to be aired that they wanted to watch as a family. Fearing
that I was about to suffer badly I was reluctant at first,
but when the title "Dark Shadows" appeared on the screen the
spooky atmosphere of the mansion in the background hooked
me right there. I joined with my family in watching the revival
series religiously, and was sorely disappointed when it was
cancelled after a mere twelve episodes.
My family and I talked for years
about how sad it truly was that the story was never completed.
My parents then told me about the original series, and so
I hunted a few episodes of that down only to feel disappointed,
as the original series seems cheesy by today's standards.
Time passed, but I never forgot
the tragic tale of Barnabus Collins that, for my generation,
was never completed. My memories of the series sadly faded.
Oddly, even when Joseph Gordon-Levitt picked up the role of
Tommy Solomon I never once realized he was the creepy little
boy David on Dark Shadows. Needless to say more than a decade
later when my wife and I were shopping at Best Buy last month
saw this and immediately picked up two, one for my wife and
I, the other as a present for my mother and father (shh! Don't
We've been picking up a lot of old
TV shows lately to see how they hold up. We've found that
many of the shows my wife and I enjoyed as children are now
painful to watch. With great trepidation I put Dark Shadows
into my Xbox (which is our DVD player) and to my great surprise,
and relief, this show remains as phenomenal as it was when
I first saw it in 1991.
The story is a retelling of the
classic Dark Shadows saga of Barnabus Collins, and his arrival
at the seemingly cursed Collinwood. Victoria Winters is brought
in to serve as the governess for the creepy David, who seems
to be haunted by the ghost of a little girl named Sara (who
is Barnabus' little sister, long dead.) Soon, one of the grounds
servants (the not so bright Willy) accidentally unleashes
that long buried and chained vampire while looking for treasure.
Having been in torpor (a vampiric
equivalent to near death, or a coma) for a couple centuries
Barnabus immediately goes on a feeding frenzy, leaving a few
injured and some dead. This is brilliantly handled from a
first person perspective, rarely tried, and rarely successful,
but here it works very well and adds a great deal to an otherwise
slow paced premier.
Soon after Barnabus regains his
composure and presents himself to the residents of his former
family home Collinwood. You don't actually see Barnabus himself
until they remark about his uncanny resemblance to a portrait
in the hall of him. Naturally he claims to be a descendant
of the man in the portrait, rather than the man himself.
As the story unfolds he makes a
ghoul of Willy (Daytime guardian of the vampire) and begins
perusing a relationship with Victoria Winters who bares an
uncanny resemblance to Barnabus' love in the old days Josette.
Meanwhile his vampiric need for blood causes him to attack
people around Collinsport, attracting the attention of the
authorities. Many people are on to him, but never quite get
the evidence they need.
Barnabus then hooks up with a Dr.
who claims that she may be able to cure him, they are unsuccessful
in the endeavor, and worse yet, Barnabus' ancient nemeses
returns to haunt him once more.
Desperate to learn the truth of
what is going on around their home the Collins family hosts
a séance hoping to commune with the spirit of Sara Collins.
During this event Victoria Winters is thrown backward in time
where she must solve the mystery behind the curse of the Collins
The acting is phenomenal, the cinematography
is very interesting, though some of the special effects are
a bit dated, (granted not as dated as the original series.)
But the best part is that despite these flaws the story manages
to grip its audience and scare as well. Though I didn't want
to stop watching my wife got so frightened she limited us
to one episode a night, and then insisted on having a night
light after that. Granted I'm so used to horror that I didn't
get that scared, but I definitely felt as hooked on this show
as an adult ten plus years after the show originally aired
as I did as an eleven year old, just getting into horror stories.
This is definitely one of those
rare vampire epics done right. It's a true tragedy that it
was ended after only twelve episodes. The biggest travesty
the network axe swing did to the audience was cutting this
show off just as it had become completely irresistible, just
after the mystery had been solved, and yet there was still
a major confrontation that needed to take place. The series
also had a number of loose plot threads that were never woven
together, in short the series ended leaving you hanging terribly.
The lack of resolution for this story would be the only reason
I would recommend against this box set, it's really the only
bad thing I have to say about the show, which otherwise, was
absolutely brilliant. TV is in dire need of shows like this.
It's a shame that it's far too late to revive this revival,
as everyone has gotten too old to reprise their roles. Having
this set on DVD serves to remind my family just what a tragedy
TV really suffered having this show cut off early.
Naturally there will be a temptation
to compare this series to the original. Although some plots
may be similar the two are like night and day. The revival
focuses more so on Barnabus Collins, and has a more refined,
but to the point story than the original, and sadly the original
does have a lot more going for it by way of nostalgia. Having
not grown up with the original series I have to confess I
don't like it. I did however; love the revival… as for my
parents who did grow up with the original? Well they prefer
the revival too, simply because the overall production value
was higher, the acting was better, and the story more focused
on Barnabus, who was their favorite character from the original
series anyway. Certainly it would be nice if this box set
has tremendous success on DVD. Perhaps, if it does well, it
will make the network realize the severity of their error.