Dark Shadows

Dark Shadows is the eighth film between the usually reliable pairing of gothmeister Tim Burton, and everyone’s favourite actor, Johnny Depp. Based on a sixties TV show of the same name it follows the story of Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp), a man who loses the woman he loves and is transformed into a vampire after a jealous witch (Eva Green) curses him. Exiled by the town of Collinsport they bury him in a coffin; until two centuries years later in the year 1972 when he is accidentally dug up. Heading back to his mansion he finds it is now the home of his ancestors, a strange group consisting of the matriarch of the house, Elizabeth, (Michelle Pfeiffer), her moody teenage daughter (Chloë Grace Moretz), Elizabeth’s brother (Jonny Lee Miller) who is reluctantly bringing up his son David (Gulliver McGrath); as well as their live-in alcoholic psychiatrist (Helena Bonham Carter), their caretaker/cleaner (Jackie Earle Haley), and David’s newly appointed governess (Bella Heathcote). Barnabas decides to set things right for his family and repair his crumbling legacy and the family seafood business. But Angelique, the witch who cursed him, is still alive and has other plans…

Cue hi-jinks a plenty, mostly involving many, MANY gags about Barnabas trying to adjust to modern society (which get old incredibly quickly – if you’ll pardon the pun), as well as camp OTT acting and even a bit of bizarre vampire sex (not something you really want to see in a film like this). Dark Shadows, while it occasionally gets a few chuckles from you, is nowhere near as funny or entertaining as it should be.

The first glaring error with the film is that it’s too long. I mean REALLY long. Afterwards you feel like you’ve been watching it for centuries – it fact, you feel like Barnabas trapped in that coffin. Maybe this is because it is adapted from a TV show and it can’t explain in two hours plus what a TV show can drag out and ruminate over in many episodes. This might also explain why the ending is so…bizarre. Loads of subplots are suddenly hurled in at the end that make no sense. It’s like Burton forgot about them and had to fling everything in at the last minute.

Dark Shadows isn’t all doom and gloom though. Johnny Depp is as usual great in another unusual role and the character allows him to chew lots of scenery (as well as a few people). Eva Green also plays the evil OTT card creating a memorable, vampish character. The look and production design of the film is also brilliantly gorgeous – dark and dingy but with vivid colours throughout. It looks almost cartoonish.

But these can’t make up for something that feels clunky and far too rushed in production. It’s definitely not the Burton/Depp gold we’ve had before (although you could argue it’s been a while since we had that…). Cutting about 45 minutes and concentrating on a better plot would have helped. And a few more gags wouldn’t have hurt either.

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~ by square-eyed-geek on June 13, 2012.

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