Movie Review: Dark Shadows
May 12, 2012 / 10:00 am
I hate to say it, but I'm really starting to get tired of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp's collaborations together. They need to move on from one another and start doing more interesting and groundbreaking work like they did 15-20 years ago.
In their latest pairing, the gothic horror/comedy/drama Dark Shadows, nothing overly original is brought to the table and it almost seems like they are just going through the motions. Sure the set designs and production values are top-notch and Burton certainly has a knack for creating a visual palette that captures the gothic feel of the picture, but the film just meanders on, not knowing what it wants to be.
The marketing campaign for this movie would have you believe that it is an all out comedy romp with plenty of sight gags and jokes - well it's not. I can literally count on one hand the amount of times that I actually laughed at anything in the film. So is it a gothic horror? Well, no, I didn't find anything scary about it at all. Is it trying to stay true to its melodramatic soap opera roots upon which it is based? Well, sort of, but most of the film's numerous characters are seriously underdeveloped so there doesn't feel like there is much at stake.
Based on the gothic soap opera that ran from 1966-1971, Dark Shadows begins in the 1760's as a young Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) travels from Liverpool to America with his parents, who begin a lucrative fishing empire in the New World. As an adult, Barnabas has become a bit of a playboy and carries on with their chambermaid named Angelique (Eva Green) despite being in love with Josette, the woman he intends to marry. Sadly for Barnabas, Angelique turns out to be a witch and because she is obsessed with him she kills Josette and curses him to live forever as a vampire. Angelique then buries Barnabas alive for what ends up being 200 years.
In 1972 Barnabas is accidentally freed from his coffin and he returns to his family estate to find it in shambles. He resolves to restore the family business and get to know his descendants - Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer) and her reclusive, angsty daughter Carolyn (Chloë Grace Moretz), her philandering brother Roger (Jonny Lee Miller) and his troubled son David, as well as David's drunken live-in psychiatrist Dr. Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter) and the new governess Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcote). However, as Barnabas attempts to revive the family business, he finds that his biggest competition is led by the still youthful Angelique who still harbors a grudge against him. As Barnabas fights for his family's business he also finds himself falling for Victoria, who conveniently bears a striking resemblance to his beloved Josette.
The first half of Dark Shadows sets the tone for the film and provides copious amounts of exposition but it just kind of plods along with no real direction to it. The comedy in the film comes from the fish-out-of-water element where Barnabas doesn't understand the ways of the modern world. There are a few chuckles here and there to be had but it's nothing we haven't seen before. Eva Green gives a really over-the-top, campy performance as the witch Angelique. She provides some of the more zany scenes in the film. Depp is fine as Barnabas - he captures the melancholy nature of his character quite well and doesn't go too overboard. I quite enjoyed the cameo performances by Alice Cooper but I'm a big Alice fan so take that for what it's worth.
Overall, I just wish that the film could have been more consistent with what genre it was trying to fall under. By the time the ridiculous climax occurs, which wasn't in keeping with the tone of the rest of the movie, I just found myself not really caring anymore which is a shame because some of Dark Shadows was mildly amusing and entertaining. Unfortunately the sum of its parts do not add up to the whole.
I give Dark Shadows a 5 out of 10.
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