Dark Shadows – Review
Tim Burton resurrects the 60s gothic soap opera about the rich Collins family of Collinsport, Maine and the arrival of Barnabas, a distant cousin who happens to be a vampire. Personally I’m not a huge fan of Burton’s style, and even though Dark Shadows doesn’t quite feel like a Burton film, it still meanders a little long in the dull aisle of mediocrity. Dark Shadows can be fun at times, mostly when Depp’s on screen, but for the most part it struggles not quite knowing what it wants to be.
In the year 1752, Joshua and Naomi Collins, with young son Barnabas, set sail from Liverpool, England to start a new life in America. But even an ocean was not enough to escape the mysterious curse that has plagued their family. Two decades pass and Barnabas (Johnny Depp) has the world at his feet-or at least the town of Collinsport, Maine. The master of Collinwood Manor, Barnabas is rich, powerful and an inveterate playboy…until he makes the grave mistake of breaking the heart of Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green). A witch, in every sense of the word, Angelique dooms him to a fate worse than death: turning him into a vampire, and then burying him alive. Two centuries later, Barnabas is inadvertently freed from his tomb and emerges into the very changed world of 1972. He returns to Collinwood Manor to find that his once-grand estate has fallen into ruin. The dysfunctional remnants of the Collins family have fared little better…
Dark Shadows starts off pretty good with a gloomy and gothic atmosphere. This is where the film shines. Unfortunately, after about 15 minutes of faithful and fairly effective storytelling, Dark Shadows changes. When Barnabas (Depp) awakens from his imprisonment and aligns himself with the remnants of his estranged family, things get dull fast… and very very predictable… although there is one character development that shoots right out of left field in the end. Chloe Grace Moretz’s character is not what she seems, revealed only in the last 10 minutes of the film. The story itself is fairly loyal to the original series, but with a comedic edge that seems to be hit or miss… mostly miss.
Performances are fine if you like what you’re getting into. Depp pulls off a great Barnabas within the scope of this film. He carries the comedy, and always brings his characters to life with charismatic charm. He is not however, the Barnabas you grew up with… if you watched the original series. Michelle Pfeiffer is equally good, but really for me to like her, she just has to stand on screen and smile. She just seems to get better and better with age. Eva Green is sexy as hell and captures her role nicely. Everyone else throws in cookie cutter performances, not through fault of their own, but through shallowly written characters, a silly script… and unfortunately, they’re easily forgotten. Even Alice Cooper’s appearance feels somewhat forced, and gimmicky at best. As I stated earlier, Dark Shadows doesn’t feel like a Tim Burton film. It always feels like its missing something… heart!
Another thing I was a little bothered by in this film was the blood effects. No effort at all! I’m not quite sure what they were going for but whenever Barnabus had fed, it was always the trademark blood from the corner of his mouth. The blood consistently looked like it was painted on with some matte makeup… absolutely no texture or wet sheen to it. It looks like the blood your mom might have added to your vampire costume when you dressed up for Halloween as a kid.
Overall, Dark Shadows is dull and uninspired, failing to capture it’s gothic roots. If you’re a fan of Burton films, you might want to check it out, but be warned, it doesn’t feel like a Burton film and it’s definitely not one of his better films. If you’re looking for an update to the original, it might be worth checking out, but the random, often unfunny comedic elements might turn off true fans. I don’t think I laughed out loud once during the whole film. Unfortunately, I think Dark Shadows should have stayed in the grave.