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Dark Shadows (12A) Reviewed

Rachel Winterbottom reviews the fate of Tim Burton’s new film – and there’s nothing promising about Depp’s destiny.

Published on May 14th 2012.

Dark Shadows (12A) Reviewed

A TIM BURTON movie without his wife Helena Bonham Carter or Johnny Depp is starting to look like a unique prospect.

Prosthetics, CGI, wigs: no matter how you disguise your lead actors, they are still going to be the same old go-to Burton cast members.

Still, Burton knows who embodies his oblique vision best, it's just a shame he's lost focus with Dark Shadows.

Barnabas Collins (Depp) enjoys the riches and women that come with being part of the founding family of Collinsport and its fishing industry. That is until he spurns the love of resident witch Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green, Camelot, Casino Royale), who curses the Collins family, killing his beloved Josette DuPres and turning him into a vampire.

In 1972, 200 years after he was buried by villagers, Barnabas' grave is disturbed by unfortunate workers, who are immediately
drained by the thirsty vamp. He goes in search of his family home and finds the dysfunctional dregs of his bloodline living in his decrepit mansion and his family's fishing cannery business in ruins.

The Collins family now consists of matriarch Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer) and her moody teenage daughter Carolyn (Chloë Grace Mortez, Hugo, Kick Ass), as well as Elizabeth's sleazeball brother Roger (Jonny Lee Miller) and his troubled son David (Gulliver McGrath).

Honorary family members include David's live-in ageing, alcoholic psychiatrist Dr Julia Hoffman (Bonham Carter) and new governess Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcote, Neighbours), who also happens to be the reincarnation of Barnabas' beloved Josette.

Based on the camp Gothic soap opera created by Dan Curtis, which ran from 1966 to 1971, Dark Shadows is a labour of love by long time fans Burton and Depp. With director and producer credits, Burton has moulded this adaptation into his own creation, complete with the traditional Burton Gothic aesthetics of subdued hues interspersed with vivid accents of colour.

While visually pleasing, this comedy horror's tone is misjudged.
It is vaguely amusing rather than funny and eerie - but not scary. There is also a remarkable amount of sexual content, which doesn't serve to further the story and feels out of place in a 12A film with a silly sense of humour.

Dark ShadowsDark Shadows

There are many strands to the film's relatively simple plot, from young David's relationship with his father and deceased mother to Victoria's back-story. This is perhaps a nod to its episodic origins, but with so little screen time or depth dedicated to each segment, this makes for a disjointed viewing experience.

A dramatic reveal in the finale also harks back to the style of the original TV series; however this is one in-joke that should have stayed out, as it just appears ridiculous.

Where The Addams Family (1991) succeeded as a Gothic film adaptation with warmth and heart, Dark Shadows fails and it is difficult to care about this family's fate. Not even Pfeiffer's presence, which was so vibrant in her and Burton's last outing, Batman Returns (1992), can enliven this strangely lifeless tale.

Apart from Eva Green, whose Angelique at least brings a dark sense of fun with her pantomime villainy, the rest of the cast are sadly one-dimensional. Mortez clearly enjoys channelling teenage angst for her role, however, her one note lip curling gets old fast.

Depp's Barnabas is an enjoyable reversion to the conventional vampire, with his Nosferatu fingers, sunken eyes and pale skin - Depp is, as always, a joy to watch. Unfortunately, it is difficult to summon up sympathy for his philandering, murdering character and the love story between Barnabas and the waiflike Victoria is insipid at best.

Fans hoping for Tim Burton at his finest will be sorely disappointed. However, his next feature looks sumptuous; the black-and-white 3D stop motion animation Frankenweenie, coming out later in the year and there won’t be a Depp/Bonham Carter combo’ in sight.

Rating: 4/10

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Absinthe & TurksMay 14th 2012.


Dich ShunneryMay 14th 2012.

1.vamp, n.1 ?c1225

...That part of hose or stockings which covers the foot and ankle; also, a short stocking, a sock. Now dial....

2.vamp, n.2 1882

...Anything vamped, patched up, or refurbished; a patchwork; a book of this nature....

3.vamp, n.3 1877

...A volunteer fireman....

4.vamp, n.4 a1911

...A woman who intentionally attracts and exploits men; an adventuress; a Jezebel; freq. as a stock character in plays and films....

5.vamp, v.1 1599

...trans. To provide or furnish with a (new) vamp; to mend or repair with or as with patches; to furbish up, renovate, or restore. Also with up....

6.vamp, v.2 1699

...trans. To pawn....

7.vamp, v.3 1904

...intr. To behave seductively; to act as a vamp, to be a vamp. rare....

AnonymousMay 14th 2012.

I disagree - I loved it. Although the characters were one dimensional, the plot was entertaining. 4/10 does not do this film justice - it deserves much higher than that.

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