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May 13, 2012

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Movie Review – Dark Shadows (2012)

by HELEN GEIB

Dark Shadows is director Tim Burton and star Johnny Depp’s collaboration to bring the ’70s cult favorite soap opera to the big screen.

Depp plays 18th century patriarch Barnabas Collins, cursed to live (exist? not die?) as a vampire by Angelique (Eva Green), the witch whose affections he spurned. She also had him buried alive- er, undead for 200 years. Re-emerging into the world of 1972 a man… bloodsucker out of time, Barnabas moves back into the family castle.

There he finds the last of the Collinses: redoubtable Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer), her wastrel brother (Jonny Lee Miller), her rebellious teen daughter (Chloe Grace Moretz), and the brother’s young son. Also in residence are the boy’s shrink (Helena Bonham Carter), his governess Victoria (Bella Heathcote)- who is not coincidentally the spitting image of Barnabas’ murdered true love, the idiot servant of the house (Jackie Earle Haley), and if the kid is to be believed, and it is that kind of story, the ghost of his drowned mother.

It’s a great cast under a gifted director, but is that enough to make this unlikely-sounding project a success?

Let’s take a look in turn at each of the four things the movie is trying to be:

1) Monster Mash: Vampire, witch, ghost, werewolf, and shotgun toting human converge in an unnecessary, unimaginative, and overly drawn out almost-finale fight. FAIL.

2) Comedy: Depp does his thing, ably seconded by a talented supporting cast. No doubt there are people who are not amused by Depp’s shtick, but I am not (not yet anyway) one of those people. Also see point no. 3. PASS.

3) ’70s Trip: The 1970s fashions, hairstyles, cars, and decor are a treat and played, as they cry out to be, strictly for laughs. That the backdrop is faux-1770s, ridiculously over-ornamented interior decor only makes it better. The strategic use of 1970s hit songs, including a live in-person performance of “No More Mr. Nice Guy” by Alice Cooper, is note-perfect. PASS.

4) Romance: The romantic triangle of Barnabas, Angelique, and Victoria is supposed to drive the plot. However, Victoria regularly disappears from the movie for long stretches. Plus, Heathcote’s acting is wooden. FAIL.

Final Report: Because it puts the comedy front and center, Dark Shadows ekes out a passing grade.

2 stars

One thing I liked and one thing I didn’t like: Christopher Lee! Josette-the-ghost’s role in the plot made no sense and her appearance at the end was creepy, and not in a pleasurable ghosts are supposed to give you the shivers kind of way.


8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Aaron Ploof
    May 15 2012

    Completely agree with your take on the film. It went nowhere and tons of sub-plots were shoehorned in. Random werewolf anyone? Deux Ex Machina ghosts? How about underdeveloped romantic leads and one-dimensional antagonists?

  2. May 15 2012

    The werewolf was totally random indeed. The movie doesn’t amount to much more than a series of comedy skits. I gave it a pass only because it did make me laugh a lot and the art direction was really good.

  3. Aaron Ploof
    May 15 2012

    It was funny in parts, but I don’t think I’ll ever see it again.

  4. May 15 2012

    Agreed. No re-watch value.

  5. Michelle
    May 15 2012

    I was one of those fans who looked forward to this until the trailer released. My voice was added to the chorus of, “Huh?” I think I’ll skip it!

  6. May 15 2012

    I’ve never heard of Dark Shadows until the first trailer appeared online. Then I found out that it’s based on a soap opera from 1966-71. I figured that it’d be a terrible follow-up to Sweeney Todd (Burton’s second-best film to date) until I saw the trailer. It looks fun but apparently the fun parts are the terrible parts. Oh, well. Can’t win ’em all.

  7. May 15 2012

    The comedy was the good part except not if you’re a fan who doesn’t want to see the show turned into a goofy comedy with a story that doesn’t hold water.

    However, I hope we can all agree that making fun of ’70s fashions, hairstyles etc. is never in bad taste. :D

  8. May 15 2012

    Of course! Because ’70s fashions are in bad taste! :OÞ

    Phew! Boy, am I glad to be an ’80s kid!

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