Dark Shadows (2012)

Dark Shadows (2012)
  • Time: 113 min
  • Genre: Comedy | Fantasy
  • Director: Tim Burton
  • Cast: Johnny Depp, Eva Green, Michelle Pfeiffer

In the year 1752, Joshua and Naomi Collins, with young son Barnabas, set sail from Liverpool, England to start a new life in America. But even an ocean was not enough to escape the mysterious curse that has plagued their family. Two decades pass and Barnabas (Johnny Depp) has the world at his feet-or at least the town of Collinsport, Maine. The master of Collinwood Manor, Barnabas is rich, powerful and an inveterate playboy…until he makes the grave mistake of breaking the heart of Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green). A witch, in every sense of the word, Angelique dooms him to a fate worse than death: turning him into a vampire, and then burying him alive. Two centuries later, Barnabas is inadvertently freed from his tomb and emerges into the very changed world of 1972. He returns to Collinwood Manor to find that his once-grand estate has fallen into ruin. The dysfunctional remnants of the Collins family have fared little better…


  • I’m a fan of Tim Burton, at least his older work, and Dark Shadows, as a dark comedy, may seem right up his alley. Much of the look of the film is technically sound, and the actors, particularly Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer and Chloe Moretz, do what they can with the material. Alas, that material is weak, and Dark Shadows becomes a drag to sit through.

    The story follows Barnabas, a man cursed by a witch to become a vampire, and is then locked in a coffin and buried by the village people for 200 years. He is released in 1972 (Deliverance is playing at the theatre), bent on reuniting with his living family, restoring the family business and triumphing over the witch, who has gone on to found a rival company.

    Except for one crack about equality of the sexes and the bit about stoning the vampire, all of the jokes fall flat. There’s many of the same old tired jokes we’ve seen before in stories about someone from another era or world falling into our own- looking for a sorceress songstress in a TV, Depp saying inexplicable things and Pfeiffer’s character covering it up as best as she can. Stale jokes about immortal breasts not ageing fail to impress. As well, none of these characters are endearing at all. Reciting The Joker doesn’t make Depp’s character lovable enough to pardon him for mass murdering innocent workmen and hippies. Let the Right One In (2008) had a killer vampire you couldn’t help but hope would survive and get away. I wouldn’t mind driving a stake through Barnabas myself; at least the movie would end quicker. It’s under two hours, but feels longer. This certainly isn’t Burton’s best work; at least it’s better than Mars Attacks!

  • Any Tim Burton-Johnny Depp collaboration in recent years is not so much a major movie event, but a reunion of two eccentric, some say odd, individuals who are celebrated for their peculiarities. In their eighth time working together, the Burton-Depp connection is starting to feel more of the same, and that is how Dark Shadows feels like.

    If Edward Scissorhands (1990) was the start of a beautiful friendship, then Dark Shadows is a marriage that has plateaued. Still, it is an improvement over the surprising box-office hit Alice in Wonderland (2010), which I felt didn’t aptly capture the magic of a Burton picture, let alone the classic story that it was based on.

    Like 21 Jump Street (2012), Dark Shadows is based on a television series, only that Burton’s film is more reverent to its source, unlike the former, which is both a parody and a contemporary update for the modern generation.

    Dark Shadows tells the tale of Barnabas Collins (Depp), who is cursed by a jealous witch (Eva Green) to become a vampire. He is locked in a coffin for nearly 200 years, only to be unearthed by workers digging at a site in the year 1972. Barnabas rises from his ‘grave’, unaware that the world has changed. He goes back to his family mansion, only to discover that the fourth generation of the Collins family now reside there.

    No matter how average a Burton film is, you can always count on Depp to give a good performance. And he does so once again in Dark Shadows. Despite playing the vampire Barnabas with a stone face, he retains his ability to charm with his magnetic screen presence.

    The first half of Burton’s film is more interesting than the second as Barnabas (and his pre-Victorian mentality and speech style) attempts to make sense of the new world that is imbued with far more liberal values. Much of the film’s humour is milked from this.

    The second half of Dark Shadows degenerates into a conventional one-on-one tussle between Depp’s and Green’s characters. Both have a palpable love-hate relationship with each other that helps to temporarily lift the film out of its dull moments that are caused by some uninspired dialogue and weak pacing.

    The film also feels tonally inconsistent, what with a ‘live’ Alice Cooper gig midway, and a bizarre sequence that sees Depp and Green engage in some gravity-defying lovemaking. If it was Burton’s intention to create clashes in tone to reflect Barnabas’ insecurity with living in 1972, it is one that doesn’t work out too well.

    Even Burton’s trademark Gothic visual flourishes could neither save the film from its conventional climatic set-piece, nor from its predictable epilogue, the latter turning the film’s narrative full circle. Turning a narrative full circle is always a very satisfying technique, but when the circle is not drawn smoothly in the first place, the technique becomes plainly perfunctory. Like what goes on in a marriage that has plateaued.

    Verdict: Johnny Depp and Eva Green strike up a palpable love-hate relationship in this weakly-paced Tim Burton film.

    GRADE: C+ (6.5/10)

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