Just another nail in the coffin of my interest in both Tim Burton and Johnny Depp’s respective careers. DARK SHADOWS wouldn’t have been met with any more lenient an opinion had it been directed by anyone else and starred anyone else, but the combination of talent is just as uninspired as the film itself. I have no remorse for any less than flattering thing I have to say because a urine soaked DARK SHADOWS poster lying on the floor of the men’s room immediately afterward hints to me that I am nowhere near out of line in my criticism.
The film starts off with a thud as Barnabas Collins (Depp) delivers a voiceover that sets up the events that lead to a jealous witch, Angelique (Eva Green), killing the woman he loves and cursing him to live with his loss forever as a vampire and eventually sending an angry mob to imprison him underground in a coffin. After nearly two centuries a group of construction workers unwittingly release him from the coffin and he returns to his home in the year 1972 to find his remaining blood ties struggling in poverty within his mansion after Angelique ruined their family’s business. Barnabas then sets off to return the business back to its former glory by squaring off with the witch that imprisoned him.
That seems to be the main through line of the DARK SHADOWS when in reality the film is all over the place. Barnabas’ tragic back story starts the film off then it jumps to a girl, Victoria (Bella Heathcote), traveling to the Collins’ mansion to teach the troubled, David (Gulliver McGrath). Then when Barnabas comes back it switches back to his story while Victoria disappears for a while to set up the troubled relationship between Barnabas and Angelique, when all of a sudden Barnabas is in love with Victoria because she looks just like the love of his life that Angelique killed. Peppered in around all of this is more Collins family drama involving a terrible father who is also a thief, the angsty daughter played by Chloe Grace Moretz, the house Psychiatrist with an alcohol problem and Michelle Pfeiffer trying to hold them all together while also trying to hide Barnabas’ vampire secret. It’s all nothing more than a cluster of half baked ideas that are baked by a messy script by Seth Grahame-Smith with only brief moments that deliver a chuckle or two. I have to say that the end product here has me a bit worried for the film adaptation of Smith’s ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER.
Despite my overall doom and gloom point of view I will say there are a few things I liked. The cinematography is very good and there are several great looking set pieces- if only the action and dialogue within the set pieces were as interesting. The character work isn’t all bad either- I really enjoyed Moretz’s character, at least until the final 10 minutes or so. Jackie Earl Haley has a brief role here as the Collins’ house servant and provides most of the better chuckles in the film. Lastly, Eva Green as the villainous provides the film with the little bit of life and over-the-top chops to break the monotony of Depp’s hit and miss performance and ho-hum pace.
Going into the third act there are some really cool and interesting ideas on display that we’ve seen in other movies which just highlights the lack of originality taking over Burton’s career. The visuals of what happens in the third act are what make it so interesting as inanimate objects come alive and a specific gag involving porcelain skin being the more impressive of the bunch. It would have been more impressive had the other hour and 40 minutes not bored me to tears.
DARK SHADOWS is just another lackluster effort from Tim Burton that lacks creativity around every turn. The painfully bland and boring script completely overshadows the visual style that is still recycled from Burton’s previous films. The cast cannot be blamed entirely as they all put in work that at least kept me from falling asleep. DARK SHADOWS is not dark but it is a film that would have been best hidden deep within the shadows of Hollywood mediocrity.
Written By: Luke (@CrummyLuke on Twitter)