Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) is a vampire, buried for 196 years and awaken in 1972. The witch who cursed him to this fate, Angelique (Eva Green), has control of the town that his family built from the ground up. Can Barnabas rally his existing family to defeat Angelique and save the fishing industry?
Director Tim Burton has assembled his troops. Dark Shadows features Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, and composer Danny Elfman. All of whom are vets of his films. To retain talent at this rate, Burton must be doing something right. Unfortunately Dark Shadows isn’t one of their brightest moments.
The 1972 setting is mostly disclosed through song. Dark Shadows is no musical, but the classic rock and pop soundtrack carries the movie more than any other single element. Don’t jump too fast at dolling out credit; it’s not that difficult to select songs most patrons are going to enjoy when they’ve had 40 years to grow on us.
Depp is good as the fish out of water. He’s not fantastic and frankly, like most of Dark Shadows, his performance will go forgotten soon after viewing. It’s not for a lack of production value, but more for an effort to mimic TV format. Now I’m not familiar with the television show Dark Shadows which this film is based, but it’s too obvious that TV plotlines dominate the film. It boils down to Barnabas sleeping around and murdering to the point that a happy ending isn’t just. If you’re expecting a dark comedy, the trailer will suffice.
I honestly struggled to recall if I had fallen asleep, missing several touching scenes of between Barnabas and Victoria (Bella Heathcote), the young governess who has arrived in town just as Barnabas has returned. Perhaps the context is lost when it’s glossed over via montage, one that focuses more on Barnabas struggling to find suitable sleeping quarters than their blossoming romance. It’s something that a love story skips out on the heart.
There’s a bevy of characters I’m not even going to bring up because they simply have no impact on the story as individuals. The writing seems to know this, making one a werewolf just to have something interesting occur. Again, I’m sure the TV series had time to hint at this surprise while this movie throws in an unwanted twist.
Tim Burton was at one time an auteur of unique vision, but for over a decade he’s done nothing but remakes, reboots, and adaptations of established works. Dark Shadows certainly looks like his movie, combining a morbid scenario with white makeup and giant eyes. I can’t help but think how magnificent it could be for Burton to apply his trademarks to new concepts. **