Dark Shadows

Love makes people do crazy things. Some people move across a country (or the globe) to be with the one they love. Some sacrifice their lives to ensure a happier life for their betrothed. Others, like Angelique (Eva Green), curse their loved-one’s family, turn him into a vampire, force people to commit suicide and cause a general misery to befall a family for over two centuries, but, you know, moving is pretty drastic too so can we really judge?


Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) is the poor sap that caught the ire of Angelique’s unrequited love. When he is finally freed from his eternal casket in 1972 – or is it ’71, maybe ’73* – he finds that his family’s fishing business in the town of Collinsport has been overrun by Angel Bay, the company run by Angelique. Each family member and the new governess, Victoria (Bella Heathcote), have their own plotlines as well, but that would just get wordy.

Actually, the numerous amounts of plotlines are the strongest evidence that Dark Shadows originated as a television show (apart from the known fact). From the angst-ridden, mumbling fifteen-year-old Carolyn (Chloe Moretz) to the alcoholic Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter), we are given the opportunity to care for certain characters to varying degrees. Unfortunately, this degree never reaches a high enough level to generate genuine interest. They are all fun, intriguing characters in their own rights, but Shadows is about Barnabas, and Barnabas alone.

As can be expected from a Tim Burton-Johnny Depp pairing, the film is quite dark, but I think they might have outdone themselves on this one. From the ad campaign, I figured Shadows would be a nonstop, campy cliché, but there were many darker elements added that, in a way, contradicted the goofy style and made it seem like the film was taking itself more seriously than it should have. Regardless, you couldn’t help but enjoy the cast in their respective roles.

The writing for Barnabas was quite amazing in adapting eighteenth century speech to the nineteen-seventies colloquialisms and Depp nails it spewing out these garbled phrases while maintaining character. I can’t imagine how many takes it took to get those scenes right. Eva Green, on the other hand, is a menacing villain but switched from Southern belle to eighteenth century witch continuously throughout, which causes problems when trying to understand what she’s saying. Michelle Pfeiffer revels in her role as the holier-than-thou matriarch of the Collins clan constantly appearing from nowhere at the top of the stairs to interject.

Shadows is quirky, entertaining and fun – the soundtrack and seventies references are great. Yet, it never is as fun or entertaining as it should/could have been. There is a distinct dip in the middle where you check your watch and beg for improvement. It does come, but later than expected and it doesn’t make up for the lapse in interest. I suspect Dark Shadows will fit nicely as an “I’m bored” weekend film when it leaves theaters.

*Don’t feel odd if that makes no sense, it’s from the movie.

  1. May 21st, 2012

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