Dark Shadows

19 Sep



Director: Tim Burton

Writers: Seth Grahame-Smith (screenplay), John August (story)

Stars: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer and Eva Green

Motion Picture Rating: 12A

Run time: 113 minutes


Dark Shadows is another weird, gothic, humorous and oddball drama from Tim Burton based on existing material. In the last 12 years he has updated Sleepy Hollow, Planet of the Apes, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sweeney Todd and Alice in Wonderland. Those were more recognisable sources, but Dark Shadows, based on a late 1960’s TV show, follows closely on their heels. Tim, it seems, likes to keep busy and loves his updates. Burton is a bit like the Coen Brothers these days, but sadly that’s not the compliment that it once was. Whilst inside jokes, recurring cast members and signature shots can make Burton and Coen movies really fly, we are seeing too much output from both with diminishing returns.

This film is close in tone to Burton’s earlier films Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands whilst also borrowing from The Addams Family. It is gothic, the humour is dark and most of the characters are over the top cuckoo. Depp stars, as back-from-the grave vampire Barnabas Collins, Burton’s wife Bonham Carter is a drunken psychiatrist and the original music is by long-time Burton collaborator Danny Elfman. The other main players are Eva Green as resident town mogul / witch Angelique and Michelle Pfeiffer as matriarch Elizabeth Collins. She is the 1972 head of the Collins family and hence a modern relation of the returning Barnabas (who was buried alive by Angelique in 1772). The 1970’s Collins clan also includes Jonny Lee Miller (Roger) and Chloe Grace Moretz (Carolyn).

The 1970’s nostalgia here is nicely handled, but we know Burton can do kitsch. The set-up has a lot of potential and the cast is strong. Unfortunately the comedy of Dark Shadows is weak with only a few good jokes. The best one, that has Barnabas urging the back of the TV set to reveal its “tiny songstress”, mines the fish-out-of-water status of Depp’s reborn character, but that seam is not mined hard enough. Better done is the Barnabas and Angelique love/ hate relationship. However, Eva Green dials it up to 11 whilst Depp stays at 7 throughout. If ever there was an indication of how underwhelming the movie is, it is Depp’s low energy performance. This film feels rushed, actually rather unloved and the ending is awful.

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