Review: ‘Dark Shadows’ Tim Burton & Johnny Depp’s Gothic Miss-terpiece

I’m over the Tim Burton/Johnny Depp Goth Period.

Like way over it.

It’s been written about everywhere that both Burton and Depp had a love for the original Dark Shadows series, that they would both run home from school, flip on the TV and sit mesmerized for the next hour. For years, they have wanted to do a feature based on their beloved series and now we have it.

And I write this, I’m struggling to remember what the heck I saw because the film is utterly forgettable.

The film starts in the year 1750, where a young Barnabas Collins and his parents have just settled in a small Maine town bent on making a new life for themselves. Cut to 20 years or so later, the family has a thriving fishing empire and a town named after them, Collinwood. Barnabas (Depp) has fallen in love with the beautiful Josette (Bella Heathcote) while Angelique (Eva Green), a maid who works for the family, pines for Barnabas with unrequited love.  

Turns out that ole Angelique is a witch who works up a frenzy against Barnabas for not loving her back. When witchy-poo turns him into a vampire (through magic and not by an actual vampire bite), Barnabas is hunted down by the townies and buried alive.

And thus, we end the most interesting part of the film.

Barnabas escapes his coffin and finds himself at his old residence that now houses the Collins family of 1972. Matriarch Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer), weasel brother Roger (Jonny Lee Miller), Elizabeth’s daughter Carolyn (Chloë Grace Moretz) and Roger’s son David (Gully McGrath). Also among the mix are caretaker Willie (Jackie Earle Haley), live-in psychiatrist Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter) and David’s nanny, Victoria (Heathcote again).

As Barnabas sets out to make the family name what it once was, he comes face to face with Angelique who is hell bent on putting him – and the rest of the family – in the ground.

The film has some funny moments, thanks mostly to Depp, but not nearly enough to hold my – or from what I saw at the screening – the audiences interest. I personally liked the darker aspects of the film which the first 15 minutes of showcased. Had it gone that way, I think we’d be talking about a very different, more interesting and much better film. And as usual with Burton’s films, some scenes go on way too long while others aren’t even necessary making the film seem longer than its 113 minute run time.

The production design looks fantastic; the sets and costumes are perfect though that’s the last thing anyone has to worry about with a Tim Burton film. I wish he’d spend as much time on the script as he does on the look of the film.

The cast is good, Depp was the standout and I’m still surprised that he has yet to do a character that is a rip-off of something he has done previously. Haley, though, is wasted in his part. The character is physically wasted, yes, but I mean as an actor, his talents are wasted. In every film he’s been in lately, he’s a high-point. Here, he just sits on the sidelines. I’m sure somewhere in an editing room trashcan lays a wonderful performance.

I hate to say this, but the last several films Burton has given us have been pointless wastes of time (ours) and money and with Dark Shadows, he is keeping up this tradition.

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