Dark Shadows

Released: 2012
Director: Tim Burton

Starring: Johnny Depp, Eva Green, Michelle Pfeiffer

Not funny, not scary, not very good


I had the luxury of a little free time in the day and decided to take myself off to the local multiplex, it was the first dry day in ages so what else would I want to do? I was torn – did I go to see Avengers Assemble again or did I check out one of the new releases? I’m not a big fan of going to the cinema to see the same film over and over again so decided that it was Tim Burton and Johnny Depp’s latest collaboration Dark Shadows that was going to get my time and money.

In 1760 an English family travel to Maine to make their fortune. Joshua and Naomi Collins and their young son Barnabas find success, founding the town of Collinsport and building a great mansion called Collinwood. Joshua instills his son with the message that family is the most important thing in life. As he grows into a young man Barnabas has a fling with servant Angelique but admits that he does not love her – unfortunately Angelique is a witch, who furious at being spurned kills the elder Collins, drives Barnabas’s true love to suicide and curses Barnabas to a lifetime as a vampire. The townspeople of Collinsport capture Barnabas and chain and bury him in a coffin, seemingly for all time.

196 years later Barnabas is freed and returns to a dilapidated Collinwood Manor where his descendants are the most dysfunctional family in town. Their business is collapsing and everyone has a secret. The family even has their own live-in psychiatrist in the shape of Dr Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter). Barnabas sets about restoring the glory of Collinwood and rebuilding the family business, despite the interference of Angelique who is now the most popular woman in town.

The best bits of Dark Shadows come in the ten minutes or so after Barnabas rises in 1972. His reactions to the new world offer the few laughs that the film has – I loved his mournful little face peering into a diner where young people are eating and having fun. Unfortunately these little gems run out and the film quickly descends into dull nothingness – rather like Barnabas’s two century long entombment. The laughs dry up, but there’s no even screams to make up for it. It sags badly in the middle and I’m sure I nodded off for five minutes at one point.

The cast is nothing less than stellar but at times it felt like everyone was taking everything a little too seriously. Johnny Depp has become typecast as the guy with funny make-up and a strange intonation, Eva Green is much sexier and could be more wicked than Angelique allowed – the blonde hair didn’t suit at all. Only Jackie Earle Haley as the weird caretaker and Gulliver McGrath as trouble ten-year old David really impressed me. This should have been campy, gothic fun but was instead just a bit boring. It can’t even go into the ‘so bad it’s good’ category as it wasn’t even bad enough. I started off liking Dark Shadows but as the film went on I was knocking points off its score and wondering when it was going to end.  When it did finally end it was left open for a sequel, I really hope that doesn’t happen.

The one saving grace in the film is the fabulous 70s soundtrack including The Carpenters, Barry White and The Moody Blues. I won’t be buying the DVD but I might buy the soundtrack album.

I was bitterly disappointed with my visit to see Dark Shadows. I wish I had gone with my first instinct and chosen a second viewing of Avengers Assemble instead – much more fun to be had there.

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  1. We saw this one last weekend and while I was moderately entertained it wasn’t really funny. Was it supposed to be scary? It didn’t really seem to go there.

    • I think that was a big problem – it wasn’t funny, it wasn’t scary. It wasn’t much of anything really. Shame – the team who made it could have delivered something so much better.

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