Monday, 26 September 2011

Casting the Collinses

Entertainment Weekly featured an exclusive peek at the cast of the upcoming Dark shadows flick. It's based on the 1966-71 soap opera of the same name.  

Tim Burton's directing, which isn't surprising considering his admiration of the series, the Gothic themes prevalent throughout his work, and the inclusion of stand-bys, Johnny Depp and Burton's wife, Helena Bonham Carter, in the cast.

To be honest, I'm ambivalent about the whole thing. I haven't seen the original series—nor the 1991 remake—but I have seen the first movie the original series spawned: House of dark shadows (1970). I'm also aware that the cult series has a strong fanbase and there've been many attempts to gauge its appeal. Pop culture writer, Eric Nuzum, recorded an interesting conversation he had with an attendee of a Dark shadows convention:
"You know, for a lot of people, vampires are all about sex, but I think it's deeper than that. I think all this stuff is really about power."
"How so?" I asked.

"You notice all the sick people at the convo?" he said. "During the whole Dark Shadows series Barnabas is a vampire in search of a cure for his curse," he continued. "A cure for his curse," he added for emphasis. "It seems pretty obvious that we're talking about a bunch of people happy to fantasize about finding a cure for the curse, eh?

"These are people who don't identify with the human characters—they identify with the freaks. In Dark Shadows, the monsters are always conflicted, always looking for a way out. They struggle. These con folks, they know what it's like to live like that."1
Whether this angle will be explored in Burton's adaptation, remains to be seen. But I'll say the 'conflicted vampire' trope is nothing new. We see elements of it as far back as Varney the vampire (1847), J. Sheridan LeFanu's 'Carmilla' (1871–2), and yes, even in Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897), which would eventually evolve to the popular 'sympathetic vampire' of today. It must've been a theme that resonated with Dark shadows' creator, Dan Curtis, as his 1973 Dracula adaptation, played out the 'cursed' vampire angle, too.

1 E Nuzum, The dead travel fast: stalking vampires from Nosferatu to Count Chocula, Thomas Dunne Books, New York, 2007, pp. 199–200.

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