At Large

A vampire confronts the 1970s


Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have explored the same territory previously: contrasting the weirdness and darkness that surrounded Edward Scissorhands in his childhood with the bright, cheery suburban setting bathed in pastels that greets him upon his “introduction” to human society.

But in “Dark Shadows,” a reworking in film of “a gothic horror soap opera” that aired from 1966 to 1971, the irony and humor are scaled up to effective heights.

Depp stars as 200-year-old vampire Barnabas Collins who is rudely awakened from his untimely burial and wakes up in his Maine hometown in the 1970s, discovering a world at once strange and familiar.

He couldn’t have wakened at a more appropriate time, when the fashions of the day made room for both his lace collars and elaborate suits, as well as tie-dyed T-shirts, peasant outfits and go-go boots; and the social mores were accommodating of much weirdness and innocence. With a wonderful deadpan expression, Barnabas discovers his hometown in the 1970s, startled by modern technology (watch out for his first encounter with the Golden Arches) but eventually reconciling himself to the changes he encounters.

Barnabas returns to his family home, the magnificent Collinwood Manor, but finds it crumbling and moldy, occupied by his cousin Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer) and her dysfunctional relatives, all of whom are barely surviving and clinging to their sanity. But even more disturbing is that Barnabas discovers that his old nemesis, the witch Angelique Bouchard, still lives on and has assumed the old role of the Collins family as the town’s patron and provider.

* * *

It was Angelique, in a fit of spite and anger when Barnabas rejects her for the lovely and gentle Josette, who cursed Barnabas and turned him into a vampire. But 200 years later, Barnabas discovers that not only does Angelique still carry a torch for him, she also still cannot handle rejection kindly.

The first part of the movie relies mainly on the discomfiture that Barnabas experiences as he encounters America in the grip of a counter-culture revolution, to deliver the humor and the laughs. But as Barnabas and Angelique pursue their deadly differences, the movie descends to gothic clichés, including a werewolf (guess who?) and vengeful ghosts.

Still, we come to a Tim Burton-Johnny Depp project not so much for the plot and thrills as for the tongue-in-cheek play of the visuals, the droll irony of innocence confronting malice. Depp is especially wonderful as Barnabas, his large dark eyes barely registering the confusing and confounding realities he encounters, conquering the setting with sheer force of personality and will.

* * *

Do you want your child to have an international education but can’t afford the steep tuition and other fees international schools charge?

The King’s School, a new educational institution that is set to formally open in August, together with the Rotary Club of Makati Dasmariñas, is launching a search for a Filipino child, currently at the Grade 4 level, to be a scholar at the King’s School. “Our hope is for that child to take advantage of the opportunities offered by our school and give back to the people of the Philippines after graduation,” said Janet Brock, director of education of the King’s School.

A selection committee composed of Rotary members and officers and school representatives will receive the applications and conduct the search starting May 15 until June 15, Dr. Rebecca Singson, president of Rotary Makati Dasmariñas, said. For more information, you may log on to www.rcmakatidasma.com.

The King’s School Manila is a member of the British Schools Group, which operates eight other schools in Asia (Beijing, Guangzhou, Nanjing, Kuala Lumpur, Tashkent) and Europe (Moscow, Navarra, Marbella), and one in Brazil. (It is not affiliated with the existing British School here.)

One reason the Group decided to set up a branch here, said Brock, were reports that families of expatriate executives who wished to enroll their children in either the British School or International School Manila faced a long waiting list “which indicated to us that there is a strong demand here for international education.”

* * *

Located in a campus just off the Mall of Asia in Pasay, the King’s School offers students a curriculum based on the English national curriculum, with strong emphasis on English, the arts (“each student will learn how to play an instrument,” promises Brock), and sports. The Manila school will also be offering a strong Mandarin Chinese program, which they deem to be a priority not just for Asian students but even for Western expatriates in the region.

Interestingly, the policy of the King’s School is to maintain a truly international student body, with no more than 20 percent of the total number of students belonging to one nationality. But, said Brock, a knowledge of and comfort with the English language is a basic requirement.

The ultimate goal of the King’s School, said Brock, is for secondary school (high school) graduates to gain entry into the top universities in the United Kingdom or the United States. Or maybe move on to Philippine institutions of higher learning, if they so wish.

We can only hope the King’s School scholar will prove a credit to the country and indeed use all the advantages that a British education endows to make the world a better, kinder place.

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Tags: At Large , Cinema , Dark Shadows , Film , Johnny Depp , Movies , opinion , Rina Jimenez-David , Tim Burton

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