Dark Shadows

Director: Tim Burton

Notable Cast: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Eva Green, Jackie Earle Haley, Jonny Lee Miller, Bella Heathcote, Chloe Grace Moretz, Christopher Lee

Rating: PG-13

Review:  Remember when Tim Burton’s name used to mean something come opening day for a film?  Sure, his box office numbers still reach inflated levels of accomplishment, but the quality of his films continue justifying those numbers less and less.  Dark Shadows only furthers that trend, as Burton dusts off Dan Curtis’ gothic vampire tale which was televised from 1967 – 1971, and spins his iconic pseudo-creepy/quirky charm around another misguided tale.  Pick comedy or drama Tim; what’s the point of incorporating both when you can’t pull either off?  Dark Shadows was a bi-polar failure on all accounts, momentarily delivering bouts of sympathetic laughter accompanied by unenchanted storytelling worthy of no excitement.  I know Burton has enough talent to build darkness into a fun story, displayed by my recent re-viewing of Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, but Dark Shadows was a fluffy vampire story too comfortable basking in deadly sunlight.  And yes, maybe it was supposed to be mainly comedic after all?  But if that was the case, the non-existence of any uproarious laughter, belly laughs, chuckles, or even a snide smirk should be a proper example of just how funny Seth Grahame-Smith’s story turned out.  Sure, there were a few flamboyant successes considering production on Burton’s lackluster reboot, but those could be forgotten by glaring downfalls.  Downfalls so bright, Dark Shadows should be burned to a crisp instantaneously once that first problematic beam scorches its pasty white skin.  Back to the shadows where you belong!

For those old enough to be familiar with Curtis’ after school TV show, you know the characters already.  But for those who don’t, Dark Shadows centers around a vampire named Barnabas Collins (Depp) who is freed from his prison grave to restore the Collins family name.  Why is he a vampire you may ask?  In 1752, the Collins family sailed to Maine in hopes of developing a brand new fishing industry.  Two decades later, the family was renown around the town of Collinsport (a town named after themselves) and resided atop a mountain overlooking the city which sported their lavish mansion.  Barnabas wins over the affection of a servant named Angelique (Green), but breaks her heart when he denies his reciprocal love.  Angelique turns out to be a witch, kills his parents, kills his true love Josette (Heathcote), curses Barnabas into an undead vampire life, and has him locked in a coffin buried deep in the woods.  Skip ahead to 1972, and Barnabas is released.  Returning home, he’s greeted by show runner Elizabeth Collins (Pfeiffer) who exclaims the family status is in ruins after new fishing company Angel Bay stole all profits.  Barnabas promises to return the Collins family to glory once again, but complications arise when Angelique shows herself as the owner of Angel Bay, putting Barnabas in a sticky situation.  Armed with his Victorian sensibilities and knowledge gap of about 200 years, Barnabas teaches the new Collins’ some old tricks while learning how to adapt in a brand new society.  A vampire, running a fishing company?  Isn’t that crazy?!

Oh look, Johnny Depp is playing an eccentric gentleman with a British accent.  Really expanding his horizons…at least he’s a vampire this time?

Dark Shadows was a dreadful waste of time in the story department, filled with characters and events that didn’t add up to shite.  Jonny Lee Miller plays quite the fantastic scumbag when given the chance, but Smith’s script never gives Roger Collins the proper time to transform into an opposing force for Barnabas while story lines so desperately hinted at the notion.  In the blink of an eye Miller’s character is whisked away, puzzling audience members why the blonde womanizer even had to exist at all.  Roger’s subtraction from Collinsport would have meant zero major changes concerning Dark Shadows, portraying one of the many faults script wise.  Another example points to Helena Bonham Carter’s characterization of Dr. Julia Hoffman, the psychiatrist obsessed with Barnabas.  Her alcoholism comedy was stale, her story arc was obvious, and all other interactions were useless.  Her actions had no major implications story wise, making the doctor forgettable…plain and simple.  Depp does nothing to surprise at this point either, bringing all too familiar antics to his vampire Barnabas.  Johnny Depp as a vampire, need I say more?  Yet delivery and century gap jokes run old rather quick as Barnabas reacts to modern technology using primitive explanation.  Why doth thou runnest said joke directly penetrating soft soil betwixt thou’s toes?  Depp charms and dazzles as always, but this time with a little more blood sucking introduced.

But, alas there are positives to be found.  Set design blew me away as always with Burton, capturing old-time architecture erected via Collinwood Manor.  Every little lavish detail and elegant intricacy brought life to the gloomy manor, at least giving viewers something fancy to gander upon.  Costume and makeup also get their own kudos for transporting us effortlessly to both the 1700s and the 1970s, fitting characters like Barnabas down to the smallest detail in prime period wear.  Colors popped vibrantly off the big screen, from Dr. Hoffman’s hair to squirting red blood.  On a scale rating presentation quality of terrible films, lets just say King Midas himself couldn’t have pushed out a prettier turd.  And oh yeah, costumes on Eva Green fit just perfectly…just another pat on the back to our Hollywood tailors.

I barely laughed, I didn’t cry…I didn’t feel much at all honestly after Dark Shadows ended.  Frankly, Burton gave us a reboot no one was particularly asking for.  In doing so, he proved exactly WHY no one clamored for a new Dark Shadows except for the 50-60 year old vampire enthusiasts petitioning on this blasted contraption called the interwebs.  Alice Cooper is how old?  And his appearance still managed to outshine any other scenes tremendously.  There’s something to be said when a film contains the likes of Michelle Pfeiffer, Eva Green, Jackie Earle Haley, and Chloe Grace Moretz; yet none are mentioned character wise my entire review.  Dark Shadows should be damned to another 200 year imprisonment without trial, protecting generations to come from convoluted genre mashing and ineffective horror.  Oh, and with the ending in mind, so help me if a Dark Shadows 2 emerges from blackness.  I’m more terrified more at that prospect than I was during all hour and a half worth of movie.  The horrors, the horrors….

Final Rating: 4.5 cheeky vampires out of 10

I would go Vamp for that…


About Matt Donato

I love all things film. I'll watch any genre, any actor, at any time. This whole film critic thing is a passionate hobby for now which I'm balancing with working in the business world, but hey, someday, who knows?
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