I was going to do a full review of the movie, but I decided that I did not want to do so. A friend did a good review of the movie in general, and I don’t want to rehash that same territory. Instead, I want to talk about something that was bothering me about the movie, but I couldn’t articulate until this morning. Finally, it hit me.
Barnabus Collins is the bad guy, due entirely to his selfishness. Seriously, let’s think about it for a minute and review the facts.
The movie starts off with the tale of a successful family that moves to America and opens up a fishery and cannery. During this time we see a young girl, Angelique, staring after the young boy, Barnabus, boarding the ship. Her mother chastises her, because Angelique and her mother are the help. We fast forward a bit until Angelique now looks like Eva Green and Barnabus Collins looks like Johnny Depp. Angelique and Barnabus are engaging in a little light bodice ripping and she attempts to tease Barnabus a little and elicit some exclamations of his love. Instead, he just tells her that he doesn’t love her in an extremely dispassionate way, and just leaves her. However, Angelique is kept on as a maid. This seems particularly cruel. This is followed by Barnabus meeting a woman named Josette, who looks a lot like Bella Heathcote, and them starting to hook up in clear view of Angelique. Angelique goes a little overboard here and uses her skills of a witch for evil instead of for awesome. Papa and Mama Collins, who by all appearances are sweet, hardworking, deeply loving parents are killed. Barnabus immediately becomes obsessed with the occult, for all the good that does him. Seriously, great job doing nothing bro. Josette is then mind controlled to kill herself, and Barnabus falls down a lot and doesn’t save her at all. Instead, he decides to kill himself too.
Now I need to pause here to outline something. It is TOLD, but never SHOWN, that Barnabus is a guy who did great things for his family and kept everything together to keep them afloat. However, this is obviously not the case. He doesn’t live for that long once his parents are gone, and he spends most of that time obsessed with the occult. The next major setback he faces, he commits suicide. This is not exactly the action of a man who wants to put family first. This is the underlying theme he drums on about later, and even then he doesn’t follow through with it. Let’s face it, this guy is a shit ruiner of epic proportions.
We can assume that Barnabus murders a bunch of people before being shoved in the coffin and buried, but we aren’t told that at all. Anyway, let’s take that at face value, otherwise why would there have been an angry mob? Ok, so we fast forward to the modern age, and the Collins clan is falling apart. We are left with a ridiculously long sequence with Maggie Evans, no wait, Victoria Winters, NOT THAT THIS MATTERS AT ALL, and how she feels drawn to the town of Collinsport due to an old friend. She keeps seeing the ghost of Josette, you see.
Barnabus comes back from being buried alive and murders twelve guys. Bam. He then shows up at the house and takes over the family. He mind controls anyone and everyone that proves a mild inconvenience and tries to restore the glory of this family’s business. He reveals a hidden fortune for the family and uses it to fix up their house and start up the business again. He runs roughshod over Elizabeth, the totally wasted Michelle Pfeiffer, who does care about her family a great deal. Barnabus is passably nice to the children, but Carolyn, Chloe Morentz, is super inappropriate and creepy. Barnabus does not make this any better with their interactions. Meanwhile, Angelique is still around, is an industry baron, and is beloved by the town because of all the great things she does for them.
Sure, she kills off and manipulates the Collins family, but seriously? Terrible people. Zero Cool, Johnny Lee Miller, steals from this family and guests, ignores his kid and stares lewdly at Victoria, all while shtuping a girl on the side. Barnabus, who could have forced Zero Cool to be a better parent or take responsibility, lets him walk out the door in full view of his kid. I’m sure that doesn’t scare the kid who sees ghosts and is called insane by his sister who knows full well that she’s actually a werewolf. That just makes her mean and uncaring, by my count. So who does he kill? He kills the doctor, Helena Bonham Carter, with whom he casually forms a liason, all the while claiming to be in love with Victoria, of course, simply because she’s using his blood to become a vampire. Ok, well, that might be understand able. The killing of twelve hippies that help him and just hang out with him though? That’s just evil. He could have mind controlled them, after all.
So let’s jump back to his interactions with Angelique. He confronts her, and ends up having sex with her instead. Then he again tells her that he doesn’t love her and wants nothing to do with her. Wow, way to go back to that well. He tells her he loves Victoria. So let’s do the math. Since he’s been alive, he says he’s in love with the doppleganger of the woman he claimed he loved and failed to save or even make an effort to help. During that brief period, he’s gotten a blow jay from an aging doctor and had ridiculous sex with the woman who’s heart he broke and knows full well he crushed. Yep, seems like true love to me.
When the movie wraps up, the fishery has been burned to the ground because he scorned Angelique AGAIN. Knowing full well what this leads to, after all. His plan is expose her as a witch, there is a lot I could say about the savvy business woman with power being thought of as a witch, but I won’t. This plan kind of works, but his house burns to the ground, puts his entirely family in danger and is only saved by the rest of the family who has actually supports him, rather than anything he’s done for them. To the end, Angelique just wants his love, and even literally gives him her heart just before she dies. He refuses it one last time, and it breaks for good. Heavy handed no doubt, but it illustrates the underlying theme of the film.
Victoria is going to go kill herself, just like last time around, but this time he grabs her. They go over the edge together, and he turns her into a vampire to ensure that he doesn’t lose her. This is questionable at best. He can’t bear losing her, so he curses her too. Way to be selfless, dude. They inevitably crash to the shore and Victoria is a vampire!
No wait, it’s Josette. I’m glad that the ghost of his dead lover could use the death of her doppleganger as a chance to take over her body in everlasting death. Barnabus is unphased by this and ends up making out with her. All thoughts of “his love” are gone, and he’s back with Josette. I really don’t think you can get any more fucked up and selfish than this.
Oh, and it ends with the doctor awaking to her unnatural unlife after she’s been buried at sea. It bears mentioning that he thought being buried in a box was a horrible torment that he couldn’t suffer through again. I am sure buried at sea is much better, right?
There you have it. I feel strongly that Barnabus Collins is a horrible, selfish brat who ruins the shit of everyone on his periphery. The angry mob had the right of it, and the town of Collinsport is probably screwed without the loving hand of their caring entrepreneur in charge of their largest industry. Way to kill the town too, Barny.