In 1760, the Collins family moves from Liverpool, England to Maine and establishes the fishing town Collinsport, building their estate, Collinwood. Sixteen years later, the son Barnabas Collins falls in love with a young woman named Josette du Pres, scorning a maid named Angelique Brouchard, who had fallen in love with him. Turning to black magic, Angelique curses the Collins family, first killing Barnabass parents in an assumed accident, then by enchanting Josette to leap to her death off a cliff. In a fit of grief, Barnabas attempts to leap to his own death, but that fails as well, as Angelique has cursed him to the immortal life of a vampire. When he still rejects her advances, she turns the town against him and he is buried alive in a coffin.
In 1972, the young Maggie Evans, under the assumed identity of "Victoria Winters", applies for a job as a governess at Collinsport and meets with the current matriarch Elizabeth Collins. Her nephew David, for whom Victoria will be caring, believes his mother, who drowned in a boating accident, still visits him. Victoria does not divulge that since her young age she too can see ghosts. After meeting with David, his live-in psychiatrist Julia Hoffman, his father Roger, and Elizabeths rebellious daughter Carolyn, Victoria is hired by Elizabeth. That night, Victoria sees the ghost of Josette who warns that "Hes coming" before disappearing after falling from a chandelier. Elsewhere, a group of construction workers dig up Barnabass coffin and inadvertently free him. After sating his blood thirst of 196 years, and shocked by the modern times he finds himself in, Barnabas returns to Collinwood, glamouring the groundskeeper Willie as his personal Renfield, and introducing himself to the family as a "distant relative". Elizabeth believes him to be a conman, until he reveals hidden riches buried in a secret room within the house, when Elizabeth thought the family to be destitute. After realizing who and what Barnabas is, she asks to keep it a secret, barely passing him off as a distant cousin; eventually Julia will discover his identity through hypnosis, and offer to cure his vampiric condition via blood transfusions.
Barnabas is instantly smitten with Victoria when he meets her, as she resembles Josette. He seeks out Carolyns advice on courting her. Angelique, now an immortal witch herself, visits Barnabas and threatens him not to go into business competition against her; nevertheless, Barnabas reopens the Collins family cannery business and uses hypnosis to steal several of the fisherman crews who work for Angelique. She tries to buy him off, but even after an episode of supernatural lust between the two of them, he rejects her offer.
Barnabas want to throw a ball to reintroduce the family to the townsfolk; Carol suggests they make it a happening, with musician Alice Cooper as the headliner. At the ball, Barnabas catches Roger stealing from guests coats.He g Victoria reveals to Barnabas shes actually an escapee from the mental asylum where her parents had her confined since she was a child due to her powers. Angelique makes a grand appearance in order to seduce Barnabas, but when she catches him kissing Victoria, she becomes even more embittered. Barnabas, on his part, even more desperately wish to be mortal again, but find out Julia is just using his blood to make herself immortal, so he kills her and dumps her body into the bay with Willies help. After catching Roger trying to break into the secret room, Barnabas gives him a choice: to stay and be an exemplary father to David, or leave with enough money to live his life alone. Roger chooses the latter, to Davids heartbreak. Barnabass true identity is finally revealed to the rest of the family and Victoria when he saves David from a falling disco ball. Victoria is scared by the reveal and runs away.
Angelique summons Barnabas again to her office, but when he rejects her offer of partnership once again, she traps him into another coffin, this time burying him in a mausoleum, shortly after he is found and freed by David, alerted by his mothers ghost. Meanwhile Angelique destroys the Collins factory and implicates Barnabas in the murders of Julia and all the people he had to feed on, turning the townsfolk against the Collinses. Back at the mansion, Barnabas reveals his and Angeliques true nature in front of an angry mob, and a fight ensues. During the fight, Carolyn reveals she is a werewolf, A massive fire breaks out in the house, and ultimately Davids mother manages to hurl Angelique against the chandelier, which then falls to the ground, mortally wounding her. She literally offers her heart to Barnabas again, but he refuses it and it turns to dust. David learns from his mother that Victoria is headed toward the cliffs where Josette committed suicide. Barnabas refuses to turn her into a vampire, and she throws herself from the cliffs; he leaps after her, biting her so she can survive the fall as a vampire. She awakens, asking him to call her Josette, and the two kiss passionately on the rocky shore. David asks Elizabeth what the Collins family will do now, and Elizabeth says they will do what theyve always done: "endure".
Meanwhile, at the bottom of the bay, the assumed dead Julia suddenly opens her eyes to her new immortal life as well.Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins, an 18th-century vampire who awakens to the 20th century. Justin Tracy appears briefly in the film as a young Barnabas. While an empathetic character aware of his sinister nature, Barnabas retains a vicious streak, never forgiving and relentless in the kill. His only loyalties to his family aside, he is a well mannered man consistently trapped in the mindset of an 18th-century Englishman.
Michelle Pfeiffer as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, the family matriarch. Stern and strict, but loyal and devoted to her family, Elizabeth cares for every member of the household and tends to help them through their personal trials. To "endure" as they always have, she isnt afraid to stand up for herself.
Helena Bonham Carter as Dr. Julia Hoffman, the familys live-in psychiatrist, hired to deal with David and his belief in ghosts. Somewhat vain and losing to her aging, she takes it upon herself to receive transfusions from Barnabas (under the guise of trying to cure him). She is often drunk or taking pills. Barnabas woos her into having a crush on him, often taking advantage of his naive nature without regarding the possible consequence of betraying him.
Eva Green as Angelique Bouchard, a vengeful witch who plots a vendetta against Barnabas and his family. She wears a constantly false smile that resembles a feature like a porcelain doll and like glass, her face becomes cracked when damaged, revealing a possibly hollow interior. She had spent two centuries using her immortal nature to ruin the Collins family name and give herself more power, posing as five generations of the "Bouchard Women".
Jackie Earle Haley as Willie Loomis, the manors caretaker. He becomes Barnabas servant through hypnosis; he retains his own mindset, but follows his masters will instantly.
Jonny Lee Miller as Roger Collins, Elizabeths "neer-do-well" brother. Larcenous and greedy, Roger often takes advantage of what he can through theft, trickery or bribery. When Barnabas catches him snooping around for the secret vault, he offers Roger a choice, either stay at Collinwood and be an exemplary father to his son David, or leave with the money to live on. The selfish man chooses the latter, hurting David at his departure.
Bella Heathcote as Victoria Winters, Davids governess and Barnabas love interest. Heathcote also plays the role of Josette du Pres. Victoria and Maggie Evans roles in the original series were combined in the film, with Maggie choosing to adopt the name of Victoria after seeing a poster for winter sports in Victoria, British Columbia while on the train to Collinsport. As a child, Victoria was sent to a mental hospital by her parents for possessing the ability to see and speak to ghosts, only to escape and find refuge with the Collins family. She is from New York and has a very kind nature. She is mutually attracted to Barnabas, but recoils after discovering his true nature.
Chloe Grace Moretz as Carolyn Stoddard, Elizabeths rebellious teenage daughter. She offers Barnabas advice on love, music, and insight into the current era. She wants to run away to New York when she turns 16, but her mother constantly forbids it. She also turns out to be a werewolf, as she was bitten by a werewolf sent by Angelique when she was a baby.
Gulliver McGrath as David Collins, Rogers "precocious" 10-year-old son, who can see his mothers ghost, who was killed by Angelique at sea.
Ray Shirley as Mrs. Johnson, the manors elderly maid.
Christopher Lee as Silas Clarney, a "king of the fishermen who spends a lot of time in the local pub, The Blue Whale."
Alice Cooper as himself.
Ivan Kaye as Joshua Collins, the father of Barnabas Collins.
Susanna Cappellaro as Naomi Collins, the mother of Barnabas Collins.
William Hope as Sheriff Bill of Collinsport
Hannah Murray as Hippie Chick
Guy Flanagan as Bearded Hippie
At the San Diego Comic-Con 2011, it was also confirmed that four actors from the original series appear in the film. In June 2011, Jonathan Frid, Lara Parker, David Selby and Kathryn Leigh Scott all spent three days at Pinewood Studios to film cameo appearances. They all appeared as party guests during a ball held at Collinswood Manor. Frid died in April 2012, making this his final film appearance.
In July 2007, Warner Bros. acquired film rights for the gothic soap opera Dark Shadows from the estate of its creator Dan Curtis. Johnny Depp had a childhood obsession with Dark Shadows, calling it a "dream" to portray Barnabas Collins, and ended up persuading Burton to direct. The projects development was delayed by the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike. After the strike was resolved, Tim Burton was attached to direct the film. By 2009, screenwriter John August was writing a screenplay for Dark Shadows. In 2010, author and screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith replaced August in writing the screenplay. August did, however, receive story credit with Smith for his contribution to the film. Filming began in May 2011. It was filmed entirely in England, at both Pinewood Studios and on location. Depp attempted to emulate the "rigidity" and "elegance" of Jonathan Frids original Barnabas Collins, but also drew inspiration from Max Schrecks performance in Nosferatu.
Additional crew members and Burton regulars are production designer Rick Heinrichs, costume designer Colleen Atwood, editor Chris Lebenzon and composer Danny Elfman. French cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel — known for his work in Amelie, A Very Long Engagement and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince — worked on the project.
The film was scored by long-time Burton collaborator Danny Elfman. An album featuring 21 tracks of compositions from the film by Elfman was released on May 8, 2012.
The soundtrack features a score of several contemporaneous 1970s rock and pop songs, along with others from later and slightly earlier, including "Nights in White Satin" by The Moody Blues, "Top of the World" by The Carpenters, "Youre the First, the Last, My Everything" by Barry White, "Im Sick of You" by Iggy Pop, "Season of the Witch" by Donovan, "Get It On" by T. Rex and "Paranoid" by Black Sabbath. Alice Cooper, who makes a cameo in the film, sings "No More Mr. Nice Guy" and "Ballad of Dwight Fry". A cover of the Raspberries song "Go All the Way" by The Killers also plays over the end credits. The soundtrack, featuring 11 songs (including two score pieces by Danny Elfman, and Depps recitation as Barnabas of several lines from "The Joker" by the Steve Miller Band) was released on May 8 as a download, and on various dates as a CD, including on May 22 as an import in the United States, and on May 25, 2012 in Australia. Songs not featured on the soundtrack that are in the film include "Superfly" by Curtis Mayfield, and "Crocodile Rock" by Elton John.Included next to each track is the year of the songs original release, excluding the score pieces.
The film grossed $79,727,159 in the United States and Canada, along with $165.8 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $245.5 million. For a Burton film, Dark Shadows achieved below-average domestic box office takings, with many commentators attributing that to the domination of The Avengers. However, the film was popular overseas. The film came second to The Avengers in most countries in regard to opening box office takings.
Dark Shadows has received mixed reviews from film critics, with a "rotten" percentage of 37% and an average rating of 5.3/10 on the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 231 reviews. The sites consensus reads: "The visuals are top notch but Tim Burton never finds a consistent rhythm, mixing campy jokes and gothic spookiness with less success than other Johnny Depp collaborations." Metacritic gives the film a score of 55% based on 42 reviews.
Some critics felt that the film lacked a focused or consistent plot or genre (as either horror, comedy or drama) pointing to Grahame-Smiths script, and that some jokes fell flat. Some further claimed that Tim Burton and Johnny Depps collaborations have become tired, and that Depp overacted in the film. Many of the same, and other reviewers, however, noted its visual style was impressive.
Positive reviewers, on the other hand, opined that the film did successfully translate the mood of the soap opera, also acclaiming the actors—most notably Depp as Barnabas, who several said was the stand-out character due to his humorous culture shock, as well as Pfeiffer—and their characters; and further, that the films 70s culture pastiche worked to its advantage.
Roger Ebert said, "[The film] offers wonderful things, but they arent whats important. Its as if Burton directed at arms length, unwilling to find juice in the story." Ebert later noted that "Much of the amusement comes from Depps reactions to 1970s pop culture," eventually concluding that the film "begins with great promise, but then the energy drains out," giving it two and a half stars out of four. Manohla Dargis, writing for The New York Times, said that it "isnt among Mr. Burtons most richly realized works, but its very enjoyable, visually sumptuous and, despite its lugubrious source material and a sporadic tremor of violence, surprisingly effervescent," and opined in a mostly positive review that Burtons "gift for deviant beauty and laughter has its own liberating power."
Rolling Stone???s Peter Travers gave the film a mixed two and a half stars, claiming, "After a fierce and funny start, Dark Shadows simply spins its wheels," and adding that "the pleasures of Dark Shadows are frustratingly hit-and-miss. In the end, it all collapses into a spectacularly gorgeous heap." In The Washington Post, Ann Hornaday dismissed the film, awarding it just one and a half stars, explaining that "Burtons mash-up of post-60s kitsch and modern-day knowingness strikes a chord that is less self-aware than fatally self-satisfied. Dark Shadows doesnt know where it wants to dwell: in the eerie, subversive penumbra suggested by its title or in playful, go-for-broke camp."
Richard Corliss in Time pointed out that "[Burton]s affection is evident, and his homage sometimes acute," and reasoned: "All right, so Burton has made less a revival of the old show than a hit-or-miss parody pageant," but praised the star power of the film, relenting that "attention must be paid to movie allure, in a star like Depp and his current harem. Angelique may be the only Satanist among the women here, but theyre all bewitching." Peter Bradshaw, in the British newspaper The Guardian, weighed the film in a mixed write-up, giving it three stars out of five, and pointing out his feeling that "the Gothy, jokey darkness of Burtons style is now beginning to look very familiar; he has built his brand to perfection in the film marketplace, and it is smarter and more distinctive than a lot of what is on offer at the multiplex, but there are no surprises. There are shadows, but they conceal nothing."
Dark Shadows was released on both Blu-ray and DVD in the United States on October 2, 2012, the date confirmed by the official Dark Shadows Facebook page, and the official Dark Shadows web site. The film was released on both formats several days earlier in Australia; in stores on September 24, and online on September 26, 2012. The film was released on October 15, 2012 in the UK.
The DVD includes just one featurette, "The Collinses: Every Family Has Its Demons", while the Blu-ray contains a total of nine short featurettes and six deleted scenes. Several worldwide releases of both the DVD and Blu-ray contain an UltraViolet digital copy of the film.