‘Dark Shadows’ Movie Review
Given the nature of Tim Burton’s movies, it’s hard to expect anything “normal” for his newest one, titled Dark Shadows. Not surprisingly, it stars Johnny Depp in a visually-stimulating, styled comedy, mixed with themes of horror and drama. However, Burton has proved himself to be hit-or-miss over the years. Although Dark Shadows looks the part, it doesn’t create characters or stories worth praising. Going for an edgier look, the movie ends up being a combination of dull characters and subpar storytelling. It’s a shame the thing couldn’t turn out a little better.
Please let me disclose the following fact, too: I am not familiar with the soap opera of the same name (which the movie is based on). I don’t think that particularly matters to what I’m about to say, though.
Set in 1972, a cursed vampire Barnabas Collins (Depp) is accidentally freed from his grave after nearly 200 years of solitude. He returns to his castle in Collinsport, ME, confused about everything from paved roads to McDonalds. After finding his infamous Collinswood Manor, Barnabas discovers his dysfunctional family descendants, as well as their loyal Manor employees.
Barnabas soon falls for the family governess named Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcote). However, his plot to win her over is foiled by Angelique, the evil witch that cursed Barnabas in the first place. Using everything from seduction to witchcraft, her vengefulness and rage control Barnbas’ actions.
Dark Shadows quickly moves through the origin story, landing nearer to the present day. While it may speed the story up, it doesn’t adequately progress the two main characters. Then the story tries to balance comedy, horror, and drama for the remaining time. It does deliver some funny moments, but it feels like the emphasis is on humor, rather than the gothic horror aspect. Depp is famous for blending comedy into his roles, but that doesn’t mean it’s essential for all of his characters.
The lack of drama is mostly evident in the love stories. Dawning more of a love square, rather than triangle, Barnabas’ mission to land the shy governess is overshadowed by so many other women. This is punctuated with a very bizarre sex scene that, unfortunately, didn’t even become the most ridiculous part of the movie.
While the plot didn’t really come together like it should have, Burton’s style and direction wasn’t as bad. It’s worth noting that it, at least, looked the part. I won’t pretend to be a huge vampire fan (or even a small one), but I appreciated what he did with the style.
Overall, the film collapses on the structure – it’s tough to even explain what the movie is about. Instead, it’s easier to describe it as a movie where Johnny Depp runs around dressed as a vampire with hit-or-miss comedic lines. The horror aspect is laughable, and the love story is probably worse. Without characters that matter to the audience, Depp et al. fail to deliver anything we haven’t seen in a Burton movie before. His style still looks good, but the compliments stop there.