Dark Shadows Movie Review
In the late 1700’s, wealthy playboy, Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) breaks the heart of the wrong woman – a witch named Angelique. Played deliciously seductive by one of the sexiest women alive, Eva Green (CASINO ROYALE, THE DREAMERS), Angelique curses Barnabas into a vampire then buries him alive. After nearly two centuries, Barnabas is inadvertently freed discovering his home and legacy deteriorating to ruins. The remaining Collins include matriarch Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer), her angry teenage daughter Carolyn (Chloe Moretz), her late sister’s sleazy husband Roger (Jonny Lee Miller), his little boy David (Gulliver McGrath) who still see’s the ghost of his mother. Also living in the Collinwood Manor is young David’s useless psychiatrist Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter) and the drunken caretaker Willie Loomis (Jackie Earle Haley).
They are a regular cast of Addams Family personalities. I’m not sure if it’s fair to refer to a popular television series in the 60’s when DARK SHADOWS is actually based on a television series itself during that same era. I’m not too familiar with that show so I can’t compare the show with the film, but I can assure you DARK SHADOWS is a much darker comedy tale than The Munsters or The Addams Family.
Barnabas vows to restore the family fortune and name but first he must adjust to life in the 1970’s. These adjustments are where DARK SHADOWS succeeds. Not just in its humor but how the humor is delivered through the always amazing Johnny Depp. With the ability to lose himself embodying every roll, Depp brings an unmatched presence that is a joy to watch. Every look, gesture and expression enriches the character and enhances the film. Unfortunately this means less screen time and development for other characters, which leaves DARK SHADOWS feeling a bit empty. I never felt the chemistry or connection between Barnabas and his love for Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcote), a woman who looks very similar to his first love and is a new resident to the Collin Clan to help tutor David. While Bella is very beautiful, her dialogue and demeanor came off quite wooden and minimal. The energy between Barnabas and his evil enemy Angelique is far more dynamic and interesting with a destructive romp rivaling a sledgehammer to a windshield.
The story is intriguing and the actors do a fine job but the film lacks a certain energy to make it great. These are similar complaints I have about Burtons recent endeavors like ALICE IN WONDERLAND, SWEENEY TODD and CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. Due to slow pacing and stale editing, scenes tend to linger on rather than cutting to different action.
Tim Burton was one of my favorite filmmakers out of the gate. I love PEE WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE and BEETLEJUICE. I appreciate EDWARD SCISSORHANDS and ED WOOD. And before Christopher Nolan came to the scene I thought Burton’s BATMAN was brilliant. Granted I was ten years old at the time, but nonetheless brilliant! Then he co-wrote and produced one of my all time favorite films THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. However, since then I feel like Burton has somehow missed the magic. I always enjoy Burton’s vision utilizing art direction and Danny Elfman’s score in new ways. DARK SHADOWS is no different, creating amazing sets and costumes. The humor led by Mr. Depp make it worth the view but overall doesn’t leave any lasting impressions.