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The F*cking Black Sheep: Dark Shadows (2012)

Jul. 4, 2013by: Ryan Doom

THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!

Dark Shadows (2012)
Directed by Tim Burton

“I was surprised, really. It’s Burton’s best movie since Sweeney Todd or Sleepy Hollow.”

Currently at a theater near you, Johnny Depp is back doing what he does best…playing a quirky character so odd, so damn weird that we the public we say, “Wow, that guy plays a lot of odd and weird characters.” I’ve been onboard with Depp since Scissorhands, but dude really needs to mix it up a little more. We all know he’s good at playing the weirdo but he gives us that weirdo all…the…time and, well, it doesn’t seem that weird anymore.

Now many are speculating that his latest, The Lone Ranger, will bomb. I kinda doubt it. The foreigners (the international box office that is) will make it money. Point is, last summer he had a bomb too with his eighth collaboration with Tim Burton. I, like 92% of the movie going public, skipped Dark Shadows but finally decided to kill a few hours and give it a go. I was surprised, really. It’s Burton’s best movie since Sweeney Todd or Sleepy Hollow. Obviously, this is no Ed Wood, but I dug Dark Shadows because it’s just a quirky movie.

Oh sure, Depp is plays another pasty squirrel, but tonally the film is all over the place, combining slapstick comedy, tragedy, horror, and gothic romance. Half the time I didn’t know what I was really watching, and I liked that for a change. The movie felt unpredictable. The movie felt big and epic. The movie felt silly and sweet. To me, that’s a winning formula. Granted, I don’t know a thing about the original show so I have no clue how faithful it is or how it bastardized it.

But then again that shouldn’t matter. A film should stand on its own two digital feet. And I think this one does as Depp stars as Barnabas Collins, a cursed man who loses the love of his life and becomes a vampire in 1700s only to be buried alive and rediscovered in 1972. Now I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the plot to the TV series, but I like it. It’s a unique take on the fish out of water story line, and it gives Depp a chance to be extra oddball because, you know, he isn’t from that time but even though it’s a cheap ploy, it works well.

Even though every single promotional pushes Dark Shadows as a Depp vehicle, it’s a team movie with a damn good cast. I love seeing Michelle Pfeiffer back on the screen, which I don’t think I have since What Lies Beneath (a decade ago!!). Obviously, I still love her from Catwoman and she still has the sex appeal past the age of 50. Helena Bonham Carter is as wonderfully strange as ever as the good doctor, and Eva Green is sexy shit as the witch with serious rejection issues. But real standout is Chloë Grace Moretz. Yeah, she’s plays your average bitchy teenager, but she got some undeniable charisma that really shows her (not like no one saw it before). Here’s hoping she doesn’t go all Lindsay Lohan in the next few years.

But in the end, this is Depp and Burton’s show. All the usual Burton gothic qualities are here, but toned downed just enough so they don’t become blatantly annoying. If anything, Dark Shadows reminds that when Depp and Burton get together they slap together something worth seeing. Personally, I’d like to see them make something for $50 million or less. If their best collaboration came from a movie with an $18 million budget, then that should tell them something. Burton is one of the directors who shouldn’t be allowed to create whatever the hell he wants because of the CGI. Give the dude limitations and his f*cked up, brilliant brain can deliver some awesome shit. With that said, with a budget of around $150 million I can see what he can without limitations. And it ain’t a bad thing.

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6:56AM on 07/07/2013

So now incoherent plots and sloppy film making is considered good unpredictability?

Dark Shadows was easily one of the worst movies of 2012. Burton, for almost the last decade, has made nothing but crap. Planet of the Apes was just bad, Big Fish I didn't bother with, Sweeney Todd was great, Alice in Wonderland was CGI infested acid trip, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was an insult to the original. I really wish he would go back to making original films (Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice) as opposed to remakes and Gothic homages.
Dark Shadows was easily one of the worst movies of 2012. Burton, for almost the last decade, has made nothing but crap. Planet of the Apes was just bad, Big Fish I didn't bother with, Sweeney Todd was great, Alice in Wonderland was CGI infested acid trip, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was an insult to the original. I really wish he would go back to making original films (Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice) as opposed to remakes and Gothic homages.
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11:42PM on 07/04/2013

It Wasn't As Bad As I Was Lead To Believe by Reviews and Box Office Receipts

I kind of dug it but my expectations were pretty low. I liked Depp and the 1970's setting but most everything else was just ok to blah. I mean is it a comedy? If so, it isn't funny so it fails. Is it a horror film? If so, it fails again as it's not very scary. It also fails as a horror-comedy for the reasons I've just typed. In any case, it's on the low end of the Burton/Depp Quality Scale (10 = Edward Scissorhands [Great!] and 1 = Alice In Wonderland [WTF?!!?]) but it's definitely watchable.
I kind of dug it but my expectations were pretty low. I liked Depp and the 1970's setting but most everything else was just ok to blah. I mean is it a comedy? If so, it isn't funny so it fails. Is it a horror film? If so, it fails again as it's not very scary. It also fails as a horror-comedy for the reasons I've just typed. In any case, it's on the low end of the Burton/Depp Quality Scale (10 = Edward Scissorhands [Great!] and 1 = Alice In Wonderland [WTF?!!?]) but it's definitely watchable.
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7:29PM on 07/04/2013

Felt very episodic

It wasn't bad. Very watchable. Felt like 3-4 episodes of a TV series; kinda disjointed, but OK.
It wasn't bad. Very watchable. Felt like 3-4 episodes of a TV series; kinda disjointed, but OK.
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7:25PM on 07/04/2013

Burton is dead to me...

Burton would easily have been in my top 10 directors based on his 80s and 90s output. He delivered timeless classic after timeless classic, but since the turn of the century the only film I like is Big Fish. Everything else has been garbage, and it's been getting progressively worse. I haven't seen Frankenweenie, but Dark Shadows was the nail in the coffin for me. It was a festering piece of crap.....I can't believe this is the same director that gave us Beetlejuice, Batman, Batman Returns and
Burton would easily have been in my top 10 directors based on his 80s and 90s output. He delivered timeless classic after timeless classic, but since the turn of the century the only film I like is Big Fish. Everything else has been garbage, and it's been getting progressively worse. I haven't seen Frankenweenie, but Dark Shadows was the nail in the coffin for me. It was a festering piece of crap.....I can't believe this is the same director that gave us Beetlejuice, Batman, Batman Returns and Sleepy Hollow. What the hell happened, dude? Terrible movie.
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8:20PM on 07/04/2013
You forgot Pee-Wee's Big Adventure.
You forgot Pee-Wee's Big Adventure.
12:19PM on 07/04/2013

It was ok...

I wouldn't say it was bad. (We've all seen worst.) But it definitely took a premise that was a little darker and serious and played more to the comedic side. But honestly, it could have been a lot worse. Oh, and to clear a few things up from your article: The show was not a BBC show. It was American gothic soap. Also, the plot with Barnabas Collins being resurrected in modern times is a big plot point in both the original series and the 90s reboot. The 90s reboot focused primarily on this plot
I wouldn't say it was bad. (We've all seen worst.) But it definitely took a premise that was a little darker and serious and played more to the comedic side. But honestly, it could have been a lot worse. Oh, and to clear a few things up from your article: The show was not a BBC show. It was American gothic soap. Also, the plot with Barnabas Collins being resurrected in modern times is a big plot point in both the original series and the 90s reboot. The 90s reboot focused primarily on this plot point but the original didn't introduce Barnabas until about a 100 episodes in.
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12:17PM on 07/04/2013
I enjoyed this movie too. There just isn't enough target audience for this movie. I watched some of the original series when I was a kid so I kinda know the basic plot which made me enjoy the movie even more. The whole movie just screams Tim Burton. It's like Edward Scissorhands meets Ed Wood with a dash of Beetlejuice.
I enjoyed this movie too. There just isn't enough target audience for this movie. I watched some of the original series when I was a kid so I kinda know the basic plot which made me enjoy the movie even more. The whole movie just screams Tim Burton. It's like Edward Scissorhands meets Ed Wood with a dash of Beetlejuice.
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11:01AM on 07/04/2013
Glad to hear I wasn't alone. Yeah, I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. Maybe it's because I have never seen an episode of the show but everything felt like it was suited for Tim Burton. My only major gripe is a really poorly thought out twist that happens at the end but its minor and doesn't effect my feelings on the rest of the movie too much. Still very enjoyable, though.
Glad to hear I wasn't alone. Yeah, I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. Maybe it's because I have never seen an episode of the show but everything felt like it was suited for Tim Burton. My only major gripe is a really poorly thought out twist that happens at the end but its minor and doesn't effect my feelings on the rest of the movie too much. Still very enjoyable, though.
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