Film Review : Dark Shadows
● By Justin Buettner
Barnabas Collins, the son of a wealthy family from Liverpool in the 1700’s, chooses the wrong maid to have a fling with. When the maid discovers he does not love her, she uses her power of dark magic to cast a curse on Barnabas changing him into a vampire. The witch maid also casts a curse over the entire Collins family and banishes Barnabas to be chained and buried for enternity. After escaping his tomb, Barnabas returns in 1972 to find that the witch has taken over the town and his families fortunes. Barnabas has his work cut out trying to return his family and their fortunes to their former glory while battling his witch nemesis.
This was a strange film to be certain and a difficult one to review. The movie is based off a 1970’s soap opera and instead of elevating the material the writers and filmmakers embraced the series, even adopting the 1970’s era in which the original is based. So the result is a very high production valued soap opera condensed into one two hour movie. Thanks to the incredible amount of talent on and off the screen, somehow this movie is entertaining despite its many flaws.
To begin with the good, Johnny Depp and Eva Green are fantastic in the movie. Both play their roles so well that it’s just fun watching them work. Johnny Depp delivers the absurd 1700 speech by Barnabas convincingly and with such charm that it does not matter how absurd the plot get, Barnabas is just a great characters. Eva Green dives right into her role as the evil witch, and the ferociousness at which she delivers both her lines and actions steal the show. This takes nothing away from the superb supporting cast as well which includes several A-list talent (and actors that are often a part of a Tim Burton production).
The recreation of the 1970’s is also a highlight of Dark Shadows. The costumes, make-up, set design, and everyone else involved with the look and feel of this film did award winning work. Everything felt spot on and I don’t know if you could get any more authentic if you had a time machine and actually filmed in the 1970’s itself.
Tim Burton definitely leaves his usual mark and sensibility with this film. This includes the good and the bad that comes with Tim Burton movies. He embraces the weird and macabre like no other. He respects and loves these type of characters and therefore he can inject life into dark characters like no one else dares. The results are always interesting entertainment. Like so many of his previous films, he is so involved with the characters the plot and story suffer.
Tim Burton is not the screenwriter, so perhaps it’s unfair to lay story problems solely at his feet, but the movie contains giant plot hole after giant plot hole. In addition, whether it’s intentional or not because the source material is a soap opera, there are far too many subplots and back stories. Instead of having one extremely well paced and written plot, the movie crams what seems to be an entire soap opera season worth of crazy subplots into a two hour movie. The trouble lies that a season of a soap opera has perhaps hundreds of hours to develop and reveal these elaborate and silly subplots over the course of a year, a movie doesn’t have that luxury. The pacing of Dark Shadows suffers as characters and sub plots that in one part of the movie seem important disappear for very large chunks of time.
If you are a fan of Tim Burton movies, Johnny Depp, or perhaps a fan of the original series I think you will find a lot to like in Dark Shadows. It will most likely not top your list of favorite movie of the year but there are more than enough great moments to keep you entertained. Perhaps I was greedy in hoping for something more story wise considering the high level of talent that the film employs but this is far from a bad movie. With another Twilight film due out at the end of the year this is almost certain to end up being the best vampire movie of 2012. If you hoping for a great vampire horror movie that take the vampire lore seriously then I’m afraid you will need to look elsewhere.
Films like Dark Shadows : Zombieland, Addams Family, and Sleepy Hallow
Justin Buettner is Style's resident movie dude! How did he get this role? Well, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Arts in film Production and a duel minor in Animation and Business with an emphasis in the entertainment field. He later went on to work on several independent films in various key roles including writer and later worked in the special effects field as a motion capture artist. He has since relocated to the Sacramento area with his family and continues writing for small independent films in addition to his movie reviews for Style Magazine.