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.
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.