Starring: Johnny Depp, Eva Green, Michelle Pfeiffer, Chloe Moretz, Jackie Earle Haley, Jonny Lee Miller, Bella Heathcote
Running Time: 108 minutes
Extras: Becoming Barnabus: It takes more than just a set of prosthetic fangs!, Welcome to Collinsport!, A Melee of Monstrous Proportions, Angelique: A Witch Scorned, Reliving a Decade, The Collinses: Every family Has its Demons, Dark Shadowy Secrets, Alice Cooper Rocks Collinsport, Dark Shadows: The Legend Bites Back, Deleted scenes
In 2010 something impossible happened; after years of mediocre hits with good films, Tim Burton’s life was flipped on its head when arguably his worst picture, ALICE IN WONDERLAND, grossed over $1 billion worldwide. Following this success Burton was given free reign for his next project, DARK SHADOWS. The result is unsurprisingly insipid.
Following 200 years buried in a casket, reluctant vampire Barnabus Collins (Depp) is mistakenly freed and returns to his family home to find his descendants down on their luck: Elizabeth (Pfeiffer), her daughter Carolyn (Moretz), and her brother Roger (Lee Miller), and his son David (McGrath). Residing in Collinsport – named after Barnabus’ mother and father – nothing is as it was. It’s now the 1970s, and his tormentor Angelique (Green), the infatuated witch responsible for cursing him, now runs the town. At least, this is as straightforward as the synopsis should be. Sadly, there is also surplus love interest Victoria (Heathcote), who resembles Barnabus’ lost love Josette, killed by Angelique’s sorcery years earlier.
DARK SHADOWS is convoluted and nonsensical and this is probably due to two major factors: there were 11 producers involved in the making of the movie, and the script is by odious author Seth Graeme Smith (last heard butchering dialogue for the adaptation of his own book, ABRAHAM LINCOLN VAMPIRE HUNTER). Though at times DARK SHADOWS may be very funny – particularly as Barnabus returns home – the screenplay soon reduces itself to formulaic self-referencing humour, with enough jokes about the 1970s to make you turn to weed and make a bong out of a lava lamp. However, the poor script isn’t the worst thing about DARK SHADOWS; that award goes to Victoria, who even as Barnabus’ love interest is only on-screen for 15-minutes maximum, adding nothing to the story whatsoever. Had she not been present, the film would have been a far greater success, especially as the focus is on Angelique and Barnabus’ relationship anyway. Why the writers felt the need for a third wheel is anyone’s guess.
The one saving grace of DARK SHADOWS are the performances: Depp, Green, and Moretz are all excellent, and the supporting characters are pleasant enough. One disappointment is Michelle Pfeiffer, although she is given all of the worst lines in the film, which is some going given the huge selection of naff dialogue. It also goes without saying Burton has presented some sumptuous visuals.
Perhaps a bigger knowledge of the original TV show would hold the viewer in better stead, but judged as a separate entity DARK SHADOWS is classic Burton – style over substance.