Analysis of “Dark Shadows” as a Gothic Masterpiece
To most, when asked to define what Gothic is, they will state that it is similar to any other story, just with more “darkness.” This is because Gothic stories all have a classic story line. First, there is the main character’s back story, if any is then told. Next, there are events that lead up to a horrible incident that is the climax of the story. Lastly, the character finds some way to fix the situation or free him- or herself from it. They might go insane, commit suicide, run away, or watch other characters perish. However, readers would be greatly mistaken if they thought that this was all that there is to a Gothic story; there is much more to the Gothic than meets the eyes. There are Gothic tropes that define this type of Literature from the rest, such as murder, groans, blood, or even an apparition. Even today, there are video games that have these Gothic tropes. According to Kirkland, games such as Silent Hill have “gloomy settings with a sense of forthcoming violence, spaces such as a haunted house, tombs and prisons, the contaminating influence of family curses, and revenge-driven ghosts” (107). These tropes have endured across time due to their effect on the human mind. And this can be seen no more than in Burton’s film, the 2012 version, Dark Shadows. Humans have a natural fear of the dark that has existed since the beginning of time. Centuries ago, people feared the dark because that was the time when they were most likely to get attacked by robbers. Some people even went so far as to capture starving, wild dogs and have them fenced in to help protect the house. Even today, people are wary of going outside at night due to the fear of getting robbed and/or killed. In Burton’s film Dark Shadows, it was filmed almost entirely at dusk or at night. Although he didn’t update the use of darkness in this Gothic story, he did use it very wisely. For example, in the film he made sure to have candles low to the ground to illuminate people’s faces from the bottom, causing them to appear ghoulish. He also made particular scenes more dark and dreary than others; while it would be sunny at the fishing docks, it was cloudy at the castle. This affected the audience by making them feel that the castle had something sinister hidden within it. Death is a huge fear for countless, as it has been for centuries. Long before embalming, people had no knowledge of what happened during or after death. At one point in history it was so common for people to be accidently buried alive, that next to every grave they put a bell with a string attached that reached down inside the coffin. If the person was alive and woke up, they would pull the string and someone would come to rescue them. Throughout the ages, death and its meaning has slowly changed. In Aikinari’s story, “The Chrysanthemum Vow,” death is portrayed as a way to free oneself from the confinements of life. When Akana was captured and imprisoned, he committed suicide in order to be able to travel to Samon as a ghost and fulfill his vow with him. In Dark Shadows, death was modernized by the use of the vampire named Barnabas Collins. Vampires have been a part of our society for generations. When someone dies, it is common for the body to bloat and for blood to leak out of the mouth, due to its decomposition. According to Gee, “a body decomposes in such a way that human teeth protrude like fangs” (8). Not being able to comprehend this, people would tell horror stories of vampires to try and explain what was going on. In Dark Shadows, Barnabas not only updated vampires, but also death. Unlike the original vampires, Barnabas became this monster not by the bite of another vampire but from the curse of a jealous witch, who also killed his fiancé. This changed the view of death because death was something that Barnabas could not attain. Unlike his predecessors, he was immortal and couldn’t...
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