Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Genre: Comedy, Fantasy
Run Time: 1 hour 53 minutes, Rated PG-13
Starring: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Eva Green, Bella Heathcote, Jackie Earle Haley, Chloe Grace Moretz
Directed by Tim Burton (Alice in Wonderland, Ed Wood, Batman Returns, Edward Scissorhands)
I admit that I was not really aware of Dark Shadows, even though the gothic daytime soap opera was ranked #23 on TV Guide's Top Cult Shows Ever. It stood out as a fantasy series because it aired in the daytime from 1966-1971, and amassed more episodes than Star Trek and Doctor Who.
It also must be stated that I am not the world's biggest Tim Burton fan...far from it. He is one of the most artistic directors of all time, creating vast worlds of incredible detail and over-the-top visuals that usually result in sensory overload. His filmography for me though, contains way too many gorgeous yet hollow duds...a virtual Christmas morning of brightly wrapped, shiny-papered boxes that reveal endless bland gifts from grandma within.
Dark Shadows is anything but bright, but it fits in well with other Tim Burton visual masterpieces. He is a maestro in this sense, and here he takes on the source material of a cult TV show with tongue firmly planted in cheek. I happened to like this film more than many of his other films, but Dark Shadows once again left me clutching the wrappings while finding little of value inside the package.
The story centers around Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp, who else?), who in the 1700s is cursed as a vampire by an evil witch, Angelique (Eva Green). She punishes him and his wealthy family once he turns her down, and if she can't have him, nobody can. He is locked up underground for 200 years (196 to be exact), and then is accidentally freed when he is dug up by construction workers in 1972.
By making this a period piece, Burton and Depp have loads of fun ripping on the peace-loving hippy days of the 1970s. Dark Shadows in tone is much closer to a comedy than anything else, a few shades lighter than the dark comedic tone of HBO's True Blood, in comparison. There is little real gore, and those familiar with the works of Burton will identify the same quirky characters that inhabit most every one of his films.
Barnabas assimilates into the Collins family - his ancestors - who still occupy the family mansion. The evil witch returns to shake things up, and a mysterious girl shows up at the house who seems to be drawn to Barnabus in strange ways.
A better-than-deserved performance by Depp made Dark Shadows bearable, but the same can't be said for the surrounding cast. Shoe-horned into this 70s love-fest is a performance by Alice Cooper (the ugliest woman Barnabus has ever seen), and a supernatural love scene played for laughs and property damage.
The plot is thin and weary, and Dark Shadows casts little if any new light on the tired vampire genre. Did we need this remake? Were fans clamoring for it? To me it is just Burton being Burton...a fancy dress best viewed through a shop window and less impressive when lingered upon.
When werewolves appear late into the film, it was like Burton had a massive climax of creative excitement and the results explode out of the screen and into our eyes. Someone needs to lock Burton in a box and bury him for a while, or at least show him how to infuse substance into his glorious creations.
Dark Shadows wasn't a horrible experience but there's nothing here in need of illumination. If you are a fan of Burton or Depp, or Helena Bonham Carter, or the original series I suppose, or material things over substance, you should be blown away.
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