Review: Dark Shadows

Dark Shadows
Dark Shadows

Dark Shadows

3 stars

Starring Johnny Depp, Eva Green, Michelle Pfieffer, Helena Bonham Carter and Jackie Earle Haley

I’m not too keen on Tim Burton. He thinks he holds an imaginary copyright on goth, and does any and everything imaginable to beat the same dead horse over and over again. His last good film was Big Fish, his last good film with Johnny Depp was Sleepy Hollow, 13 years (and 4 partnerships) ago. So that’s why I was pleasantly surprised when this one turned out to be quite enjoyable.

I obviously, being 26, wasn’t around when Dark Shadows originally aired, but way back in the early days of SyFy, when it was still Sci-Fi, they rebroadcast it. And being a weird child who was really into vampires, I watched it. Loved it. I was excited by the prospect of the film, featuring a great cast… but ugh… Tim Burton.

But it was a surprisingly fun movie. It has the all the kitsch of the series, and Burton’s Beetlejuice, but no wink and nod. There’s no joke to be in on, no irony to be had. They all play it straight, and make it work. Depp hasn’t done a memorable character since Cpt. Jack Sparrow (well… Rango‘s really good, but we’ll keep this strictly live action). This comes close to his standard of character development, but it’s just not fully there. I was delighted by Pfieffer. I can’t even remember the last film I saw her in… probably when I watched Batman Returns on DVD a few years ago. She was just fantastic.

High marks go to Eva Green as the villainous witch, Angelique, who cursed Depp’s Barnabas Collins to be a vampire and set the whole thing in motion. She’s so beautiful and sinister… femme fatale defined. She was fantastic. And of course the great Chloe Grace Moretz, one of the most dynamic young performers working today.

What ultimately kept the film together was the solid script from Seth Grahame-Smith, marking his feature film debut as a writer. His sense of story is brilliant. He doesn’t dwell too much on back story or drag it out. This should come as no shock, considering he wrote the novels “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” (and he wrote the screenplay for the movie coming out in June) and “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” His work on this has me excited for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

The downfall of the movie is ultimately Tim Burton. His schtick has gone stale, and, stylistically, this is no different from Edward Scissorhands. Burton somehow turns a film with great performances and a fun script into something bland and generic. I’m beginning to wonder if he’s just crossed over into the realm of sad, self-parody.

It’s a surprisingly enjoyable film, and if you like Burton retreading his old worn out style, then you’ll love this film. I’d just like it if he would make another film like Big Fish… as in step out of the comfort zone and actually try.

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