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Movie Review: Dark Shadows

'Shadows' should have stayed in the dark
Dark Shadows
Running Time: 113 min
Release Date: 2012-05-11
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By "Lawrence Toppman"
The Charlotte Observer

Tim Burton has always been a fan of the Frankenstein story, from his short “Frankenweenie” (which will be his next feature film) to the animated heroines of “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and “Corpse Bride.” This obsession takes a different form in “Dark Shadows,” where he stitches together segments from half a dozen genres. His creation lurches from mood to mood, staggering forward exhaustedly, until it collapses.

It opens as a Gothic romance: Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp), inheritor of a fortune in colonial Maine, sees his fiancée (Bella Heathcote) go over a cliff and leaps to join her in death. He awakens to realize Angelique (Eva Green), a witch whose love he spurned, caused the girl’s death – and, in some inexplicable way, has turned him into a vampire. With the help of torch-carrying villagers, she imprisons him for 196 years.

An excavation in 1972 unearths his coffin, and we’re in a fish-out-of-water comedy. He comes back to the family manor, now run by a disgusted matriarch (Michelle Pfeiffer) with an ineffectual brother (Jonny Lee Miller), a sullen daughter (Chloë Grace Moretz) and a frightened nephew (Gulliver McGrath). They and a live-in shrink (Helena Bonham Carter) introduce Barnabas to television, cars and other modernities in standard comic ways.

Meanwhile, there’s a romance between Barnabas and Victoria, the new governess. She’s a ringer for his murdered fiancée and a living version of the pale-skinned, saucer-eyed heroines of “Bride” and “Nightmare,” though infinitely duller. I haven’t yet touched on the low comedy (Jackie Earle Haley as a drunken caretaker), the straight horror – Barnabas slays more than a dozen people and drinks their blood with a smidgeon of remorse – or the drama of family conflict. That’s meant to inspire pity for the nephew, who has visions of his dead mother.

Any of these alone might have amounted to a satisfying story; together, none do. Director Burton even seems bored: At one point, without warning, he has a character turn into a werewolf. That change comes out of nowhere, it goes nowhere, and the film would be the same without it. Burton throws it in only for cheap shock value.

All of the women are prevented from connecting with the audience: Green and Heathcote by lack of charisma, Pfeiffer by limited facial expressions, Carter by an underwritten character. Miller’s a shadow, the children scarcely more interesting than he.

Depp’s at home again, hiding beneath the wig and accent and layers of makeup where he’s happiest. He has starred in the last five films Burton directed, and they know each other like brothers. So Depp summons every type of behavior Burton requires: heroism, zaniness, longing, wit, ferocity, sexuality, icy resolve. Had they stuck to one or two of these, we might have had a terrific film.

Reviews & Comments
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5/10/2012 - The Charlotte Observer - Lawrence Toppman

A vampire returns to the Maine town founded by his family to settle scores. A confused whirl of impressions, none leaving a mark.

(Full review)
May 14, 2012 - davemanbme on Dark Shadows

What is with Hollywood ruining great TV shows with these jokes as movies? 21 Jump Street, Land of the Lost, The Dukes of Hazzard, The A-Team. I could go on. I am done. If it's a TV show made into a movie, I'll pass and save my money. Hollywood has ripped me off for the last time!

May 10, 2012 - sindarintech on Dark Shadows
Depp and Burton: Nevermore!

This film is a sore disappointment for fans of the 60s series who have waited 40 years for it to be brought to the silver screen. If Burton was going to move in such a radical direction from the beloved source material, why didn't he just come up with his own characters and plot lines rather than creating this abomination of a film? Apparently it's his right as an 'artiste' to do what he wants, as long as a production company is willing to throw money at it. Depp is a total joke as Barnabas, who carried an air of sophistication and class with him in the original series. While it is true that Jonathan Frid is a near impossible act to follow, Depp has twisted the character into one better suited for an amateur comic book.

Save your hard-earned money. The only place this film belongs is on the trash heap... with much of Depp and Burton's recent 'work'.

May 10, 2012 - Pepperp on Dark Shadows
A disgracel to the original tv show

It was all over the place. It reminds you of a spoof movie. It was so awful it was a disgrace and embarassment to the original tv show.
Perhaps they should have stuck to the true horror nature of the tv show.

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