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Review: Dark Shadows

May. 10, 2012by: Chris Bumbray

PLOT: After spurning the affections of his chambermaid/witch- Angelique (Eva Green), the aristocratic Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) is transformed into a vampire, and buried in a casket. Two hundred years later, in the year 1972, he's awakened- and returns to his family home, now belonging to his distant relatives; family matriarch Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer), her ne'er-do-well brother, Roger (Jonny Lee Miller),, and his son David (Gulliver McGrath), along with her own daughter- the angsty Carolyn (Chloe Moretz)- not to mention the family psychiatrist, Dr. Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter). While getting to know his new family, Barnabas once again falls prey to the devious Angelique- who'll still stop at nothing to get him in her clutches.

REVIEW: Based on the wildly popular seventies soap (of which I've never seen a single episode) DARK SHADOWS is the long-awaited film debut of vampire hero anti-hero Barnabas Collins. To be sure, the idea of a gothic vampire tale directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp seems like the perfect match, but something has seemed off in the goofy trailers, that seemed to peg this as another BEETLEJUICE. With a script by Seth-Grahame-Smith (author of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES, & the soon-to-be-a-film ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER) you can reasonably assume that yes, DARK SHADOWS does contain lots of self-aware pop-culture infused humour- but it's a schizophrenic film.


The first two-thirds of the movie are actually pretty great, with it being more of a fish-out-of-water comedy than a horror film. Surprisingly, this approach works a lot better than the trailers would have you think. Of all the time-periods to wake up in, the early seventies would have no doubt been a scary time for the tasteful vamp. The early scenes showing Barnabas trying to fit in by reading 'Love Story', and hanging out with pot-smoking hippies are about as funny as anything in BEETLEJUICE, and throughout the first hour or so, the film is loads of fun.


Johnny Depp, not the most restrained of actors these days (but who doesn't love him for that?) seems to be having a ball as Barnabas, with his Nosferatu-like makeup, and aristocratic accent. Far from an undead Jack Sparrow, Depp makes Barnabas into yet another hilarious character, although I suspect he's quite different from the romantic anti-hero that I presume was depicted in the series. While he's probably too funny to be scary, Barnabas still does his share of bloodletting, and even picks up a Renfield-like assistant, played by Jackie Earle Haley.

As his nemesis, we get the deliriously sexy Eva Green. Thing is- I have a wild crush on Green, and ever since THE DREAMERS I've adored her. Green gets to show a surprising flair for physical comedy, and as always she's a sight to behold (although I prefer her with dark hair, rather than blond). Problem is, Green is so good opposite Depp, his real love interest, Bella Heathcoat (at 24- seeming rather young next to the forty-something Depp) doesn't really get much of a chance to establish herself. She's supposed to be the reincarnation of his lost love, but considering they have only a handful of scenes together, it's hard to accept that they're in love towards the end (it feels like chunks of their relationship were snipped out).


It's really only in the last forty minutes or so where most of the problems with DARK SHADOWS lie. Somewhere after Alice Cooper shows up in a cameo as himself, the film takes a surprisingly serious turn, and it seems that from this point, Burton wants us to accept this as a serious gothic-horror piece. It all ends in a flurry of special effects, and revelations, but after 2/3's of the film being totally tongue-in-cheek, the twist seems jarring, and doesn't quite work. Everything is wrapped up too neatly, which leaves the door open for a sequel (we'll see), but it doesn't quite gel, and all feels anti-climatic.

Nevertheless, even in this stretch, the film is still entertaining, and I found DARK SHADOWS to be far superior to some of the other more recent Depp-Burton pairings, especially ALICE IN WONDERLAND (although considering that it made a billion dollars, audiences seem to disagree with me). While it isn't near the level of EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, or ED WOOD (a great film), I still had a pretty swell time with DARK SHADOWS. If any of you out there want a little break from repeat screenings of THE AVENGERS (I imagine many of you will be seeing it again this weekend if you haven't already), DARK SHADOWS is fun- if not more than that.

Source: JoBlo.com

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4:18AM on 09/16/2012

A mess

Sorry, but the movie was a mess. It was full of pointless characters (why was Johnny Lee Miller in this?), nobody gets any development apart from Green and Depp, the main romance is less than half baked, which makes the conclusion have no impact since it seems that it came out of nowhere and in the end there is a twist concerning a character that's only on screen for like five minutes that was never hinted at throughout the movie and it seems like it was pulled right out of someone's ass so the
Sorry, but the movie was a mess. It was full of pointless characters (why was Johnny Lee Miller in this?), nobody gets any development apart from Green and Depp, the main romance is less than half baked, which makes the conclusion have no impact since it seems that it came out of nowhere and in the end there is a twist concerning a character that's only on screen for like five minutes that was never hinted at throughout the movie and it seems like it was pulled right out of someone's ass so the could throw in a werewolf (which by the way looks horrible, the werewolves in MTV's Teen Wolf look A LOT better) in there. I'm sure that those things were important in the series, but they simply don't work in the movie. It has too many characters and too many thing going on, making it come on as unfocused and downright boring at times. It does look great though, I'll give it that, and Depp and Green are great in their roles, as is Michelle Pfeifer and Chloe Moretz for the very few minutes she is on screen. And now a message to Tim Burton: dude we get it: Helena Bonham Carter is your wife and you love her, and you want her to be in your movies and that's cool and all, BUT, do you always have to make her stand out in the scenes she's in, so that she is the center of attention, even when she is doing nothing? Just check out her scenes here: her hair is a very vivid and bright red, which totally contrasts and clashes with the grey and blue color pallet of the film, making her stick out, even when she is in the background! Anyway, Dark Shadows is a very far cry from Beetlejuice and Burton's good movies. Dude needs to start paying the same amount attention to the scripts of the movies he's working on that he pays to the visuals.
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3:26AM on 05/11/2012
I mostly agree with this review. The climax doesn't quite work, but there's a lot of very funny stuff, Depp is doing great work, and Tim's visuals are on point. It's certainly more enjoyable than Alice, Charlie, or Corpse Bride.
I mostly agree with this review. The climax doesn't quite work, but there's a lot of very funny stuff, Depp is doing great work, and Tim's visuals are on point. It's certainly more enjoyable than Alice, Charlie, or Corpse Bride.
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+0
10:56PM on 05/10/2012
From the trailers and this review, looks like this will soon be in my queue on Netflix.
From the trailers and this review, looks like this will soon be in my queue on Netflix.
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8:37AM on 05/10/2012

Not surprised

Although I wasn't personally too interested in this, I didn't think it looked nearly as horrible as many others were making it out to be. After seeing more TV spots and reading this review, now I really kinda DO wanna see it!

Just seemed like too many people were holding ALICE IN WONDERLAND against this movie, which I guess I wouldn't blame them for. At the same time, this looked to be a more scaled down project focusing on characters, performances and situations rather than an FX
Although I wasn't personally too interested in this, I didn't think it looked nearly as horrible as many others were making it out to be. After seeing more TV spots and reading this review, now I really kinda DO wanna see it!

Just seemed like too many people were holding ALICE IN WONDERLAND against this movie, which I guess I wouldn't blame them for. At the same time, this looked to be a more scaled down project focusing on characters, performances and situations rather than an FX extravaganza that Burton's last few movies were. Maybe recapture a bit of that quirky, dark BEETLEJUICE kind of humor.

Even if it's merely classic 'style over substance' Burton, as long as there's enough substance there than that's okay by me.
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-1
5:18AM on 05/10/2012
A good score. If you like Burton films, which I do, I feel this is about middle of the road for him in terms of quality. It's entertaining, but forgetful, especially in a summer of great films. It's funny in many parts, but also dark in several areas. I really think that putting the majority of this film in the 70's was a big help, as that's where most of the humor comes from. Otherwise, not too bad.
A good score. If you like Burton films, which I do, I feel this is about middle of the road for him in terms of quality. It's entertaining, but forgetful, especially in a summer of great films. It's funny in many parts, but also dark in several areas. I really think that putting the majority of this film in the 70's was a big help, as that's where most of the humor comes from. Otherwise, not too bad.
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3:21AM on 05/10/2012

well good...

personally i'm more familiar with the NBC 1991 TV remake of Dark Shadows with Ben Cross as Barnabas Collins.

Tounge-in-cheek will only go so far and with a movie like this, at some point you GOTTA get serious with your subject matter.

Another film that did this 50/50 approach was "From Dusk Till Dawn" and all people remember about that movie WAS the horror, the gore and the vampires.. we'll see if it works here... i like horror, the trailer kinda put me off so i'll be ready for the gothic
personally i'm more familiar with the NBC 1991 TV remake of Dark Shadows with Ben Cross as Barnabas Collins.

Tounge-in-cheek will only go so far and with a movie like this, at some point you GOTTA get serious with your subject matter.

Another film that did this 50/50 approach was "From Dusk Till Dawn" and all people remember about that movie WAS the horror, the gore and the vampires.. we'll see if it works here... i like horror, the trailer kinda put me off so i'll be ready for the gothic twist near the tail end of the flick.
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8:11AM on 05/10/2012
I'm actually the other was around on "From Dusk 'til Dawn." I remember it real good until after the initial vampire attack, up until the meeting with Carlos.
I'm actually the other was around on "From Dusk 'til Dawn." I remember it real good until after the initial vampire attack, up until the meeting with Carlos.
3:20AM on 05/10/2012
Blow me if ya don't like it but I have always liked Tim Burtons films & his collaborations with Depp & well since surprisingly as goth as he is that this is his first fortay into the vampire genre I am game for this movie. Even beetlejuice got more dark towards the end.
Blow me if ya don't like it but I have always liked Tim Burtons films & his collaborations with Depp & well since surprisingly as goth as he is that this is his first fortay into the vampire genre I am game for this movie. Even beetlejuice got more dark towards the end.
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2:50AM on 05/10/2012
1) Eva Green is so sexy it hurts. I'd win the lottery and burn all of it ala' the Joker in TDK to get five minutes alone with her. Now that I've been creepy..

This does seem like more of a throw back to stuff like the Addams Family and I am really looking forward to it.
1) Eva Green is so sexy it hurts. I'd win the lottery and burn all of it ala' the Joker in TDK to get five minutes alone with her. Now that I've been creepy..

This does seem like more of a throw back to stuff like the Addams Family and I am really looking forward to it.
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12:47AM on 05/10/2012
Not surprised by the review. Burton and Depp need to hang it up and go their separate ways for a little while.
Not surprised by the review. Burton and Depp need to hang it up and go their separate ways for a little while.
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