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“Dark Shadows ” (2012)

Directed by Tim Burton

Reviewed by Vic

Rating – 6 out of 10

Well, there once was a time I actually got excited about a new Burton / Depp film. I believe the last one I was really looking forward to was “Sweeney Todd” and it did not disappoint.  Of course there was “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and despite it being very close to the source material, Depp as Wonka just creeped me the fuck out and I found it to be kinda weird and too “trippy” in parts. “Alice in Wonderland”  fared no better for me as well. It did have it’s detractors and unfortunately I was one. I felt it was great to look at but I was bored as hell and Depp once again looked too fucking creepy. To give Depp his credit and his due, he is a great chameleon on the screen. He gives his strange film personas much thought and life. Ed Wood, Ichabod Crane and then even Barnabas Collins. Which brings me to “Dark Shadows” where once again we are brought into the twisted, fun and maniacal world of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. Yea! Or maybe yea?

I have the original Dark Shadows Soap Opera in my Netflix queue and it has never been taken off. That’s a good thing because when I first saw it was available I jumped on the chance to watch it repeatedly. And I have. I’ve come to know all the main characters well and I am pretty well versed in most of the story arcs (netflix still needs to add more episodes) which involve witches, graveyards, gothic mansions and of course ghosts and vampires.

Tim Burton directing an updated “Dark Shadows” with his leading man, Mr.Depp should have been a no brainer. Especially with the script being written by Seth G.Smith who wrote Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Two really fun novels that have captured the imagination of many readers looking for different and unique spins on typical horror fare. So, yep, I was pretty excited and throughout the production whatever info and pics were either leaked or released I would post here in ‘The Den with much fervor. Then when some pics of Depp in make-up were released something kinda changed and my expectations went a bit askew. I still defended the film and it’s strange looking make up pics of Depp as Barnabas. I mean really? Why all the hate, right? I mean, you can’t judge a book by it’s cover.

By now many of you guys have seen the film so I won’t go into plot details or doing an overview of the story. I was, in the end, left scratching my head. Did I really like it? I wasn’t sure. There were some cool things to like but some hardcore Shadows fans are gonna crap all over this one. Suffice it to say Smith takes liberties with the canon. But I didn’t mind that so much. I understood what he was going for but his dialog, plot and the third act just do not gel. It’s not consistent in tone (Burton makes up for it in style though, Depp never looked so chic) and sometimes we get involved and other times we get bored. The introduction to the movie starts off with an undead bang as we find out just what happened to Barnabas before he was cursed. Watching Depp waking up in 1972 is a hoot to behold as he walks around Collinsport having the best kinds of culture shock.

We routinely get the intros to most of the Collins clan. Willie, Elizabeth (played fetchingly by Michelle Pfeiffer), Carolyn Stoddard (Chloe Moretz) and my least favorite of the acting bunch, Helena Bonham Carter who plays Dr. Julia Hoffman. Also Johnny Lee Miller as the conniving Roger Collins who departs the film early on and is never missed by anyone. Carter and Moretz just sleepwalk through their roles and when we are let in on a secret involving Carolyn in the third act, I was just mildly interested and left wondering where the hell does this movie wanna go? Depp has zero chemistry in my opinion with Eva Green who is stunningly beautiful as Angelique despite some scenery chewing. They play the overt sexual attraction as a gimmick and never really sold me on it. I think Depp plays way better off Pfeiffer who like her cinematic counterpart tries desperately to hold things together.

So what did I like? I liked Depp. Even though his performance was a bit off in parts he was killer to watch as a vampire. I’d love to see him do it again. I love watching Michelle Pfeiffer. The haunting score by Danny Elfman. The costumes were spot on for 1972. The cameos by some of the original cast members and the set design was epic. Each had their unique Tim Burton feel and style. So there is some stuff to like here but the major flaws in my opinion was the lackluster story, execution and Burton’s inability to pick how serious in tone he wanted the film to go. He would promptly bombard us with 70’s disco tunes to transition us but he went to the well too many times with that. Eva Green, Bonham Carter and Moretz are just wasted and boring. Moretz even at times delivers her lines as if in a trance. They failed with the brooding rebellious teenager thing here.

Oh well, this review has gone on long enough. I could go on more about the film but I don’t think it’s worth the effort. This is more like an essay of what I liked and disliked than a review in the classic sense. Sorry, if I rambled. I expected great things from this incarnation of Dark Shadows. But instead I just got a wink and a nod. Some parts were fun and some were not. Oh well. I hope Depp and Burton can make something much more original and fun next time. No more children’s fantasies and TV to big screen reboots.