Dark Shadows

Director: Tim Burton (2012)
Starring: Johnny Depp, Eva Green, Helena Bonham Carter
Find it: IMDB

A rare collaboration between Johnny Depp and director Tim Burton. Those guys really should make more movies together. Dark Shadows is a big-screen adaptation of the cult TV soap opera of the same name. After spurning the advances of a smitten housemaid, rich Barnabas Collins (Depp) is cursed and turned into a vampire. Feeling that her revenge hasn't gone quite far enough, Angelique (Green) curses the Collins' family name and locks Barnabas in a coffin, deep underground. Two decades later, Barnabas is inadvertently exhumed by workmen building a McDonald's. Barnabas is released into a world he no longer recognises - the funky 1970s. He returns to his family mansion, hoping to reverse the fortunes of his now almost-destitute family and restore the Collins name to its former glory. Groovy.

Except Dark Shadows is decidedly not-groovy. Despite starring Johnny Depp and featuring a purple colour palette, it feels surprisingly little like a Tim Burton film at times. A lot of this is due to the soundtrack; rather than the overfamiliar Danny Elfman tunes (although there are some) there are several funky 70s dance and disco tunes. It also looks surprisingly bright. The little fishing village in which the Collins family lives is sunny and very normal, for a Burton neighbourhood. It has plenty of Goth moments, but less than that poster might suggest. Still, those hoping for a change from Burton's usual will be disappointed. On the evidence of this and his more recent works, it would seem that Tim Burton has completely lost the ability to tell any sort of compelling story.

"He only lets me out of the box to make movies... terrible, terrible movies."

I laughed at the fish-out-of-water jokes, but not nearly as often or as hard as I would have liked. The humour is funny, but the story is dull and predictable. Tonally, it's all over the place, with Barnabas being the film's hero one moment and slaughtering a gang of innocent hippies the next. Its vampire sex seems utterly tame following the scary fucks of True Blood. Mind, everything seems tame after True Blood. Appropriately, the lengthy dialogue scenes feel like something out of a soap opera. As Barnabas and his relatives struggle with their failing fishing business, it's like Emmerdale or The Archers crossed with Dracula. There's some fun to be had with the Collins clan (particularly Jackie Earle Haley as the staff handyman and Jonny Lee Miller as Sleazy Dad) but I have no idea why Helena Bonham Carter is there nor why the film insists on sexualising Chloe Grace Moretz as it does.  

For the first forty or so minutes, Dark Shadows is mildly funny with one or two inspired touches. There are a couple of neat cameos from 70s Alice Cooper and Christopher Lee, while the better actors take up enough slack for the boring story to not matter so much. And then the tone changes completely. Attempting to ape the comedy horror action of Beetlejuice, Michelle Pfeiffer blasts away at Eva Green with a shotgun, Chloe Grace Moretz does something unbelievably ridiculous (a twist that even Night Shyamalan would look at and think "fuck that") and Dark Shadows falls to pieces. It is the single worst ending to a film in a very, very long time. I can forgive most things for the sort of soundtrack Dark Shadows offers - but not that ending. None of it works on any level.

It's nowhere near as bad as his Alice In Wonderland, but not as enjoyable as Sweeney Todd (the last film of Burton's that I enjoyed). Let's hope he gets over whichever curse maligns his filmmaking skills at the moment - poor Tim Burton is a (Dark) Shadow of his former self. 


  1. I wanted to vomit my heart out when I first saw the trailer. Can't stand the Burton/Depp collaborations anymore - I pass.

  2. I actually liked the trailer. Had the film been the zany upbeat 70s nonsense it suggested, I might have liked the film more. But agreed, I don't think I can take another of these silly collaborations. Tim and Johnny need to start seeing other people, I reckon.


  3. quotes from dark shadow n more