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Dark Shadows

A 2012 movie directed by Tim Burton based on the supernatural soap opera

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A Devisive Film

  • May 13, 2012
Dark Shadows (2012) is destined to split the audience into two camps.

Camp A will love this movie because they are fans of the Burton/Depp team. In their eyes, B/D can do no wrong, because the source material is immaterial. They go in expecting only to be entertained by a certain kind of shtick...and in this particular case, they received it in spades, and therefore went home from the theater quite pleased from having their expectations met.

Camp B will be disappointed in this movie, because they are Dark Shadows fans, first. They went in hoping to see a sensitive, definitive handling of their favorite TV show on the big screen, made by pros who claimed to be fans. All they got for their ticket price was evidence that the producers either don't get what Dark Shadows was really about, or don't care, in yet another effort made to pander to the lowest common denominator to boost box office receipts. (Whether or not this strategy will financially work for them is still anybody's guess at the time I write this.)

I, personally, fall into Camp B, so Camp A people might as well stop reading right here, because what I have to say will not interest you in the least.
The film begins almost like the second episode of a nighttime TV drama. "Previously on Dark Shadows...," as it were. A short, quite condensed, teaser-like preamble about Barnabas spurning the wrong woman, and getting punished for it by having to watch his beloved Josette plummet to her death, then he, himself, is buried in vampire form for 200 years. Jump to the 1970's, where we meet a young woman riding a train to her destination. She is rehearsing her introduction out loud to her soon-to-be employers. Inspired by a nearby Olympics poster, she assumes the fake name of "Victoria Winters," and smooth-talks her way into being the new governess at Collinwood (depicted here as the only home the family ever had in the New World). She also bears a strong resemblance to Josette.
The first hour of the film shows quite a lot of promise, as some things unfold expectedly. But other story points, it seems, are zigged merely to surprise the audience's zag expectation. One case in point being the true motivation of Julia Hoffman's attempt at curing Barnabas' affliction. This, I have no problem with, as this sort of thing is done in many of the big-name anime franchises (I happen to be a huge anime fan, too, btw). Dark Shadows, in particular, has a tradition of incorporating changes to its plot, both small and great, in every incarnation it has had. Why, it even gave us parallel world stories during its maiden run.
No, my problem with this movie is in its false premises. Firstly, Dark Shadows, is supposed to be Vicky's story. Because it was deemed more important for it to be a Johnny Depp vehicle, this means Barnabas dominates most of the screentime, reducing the rest of the A-list cast into supporting players. Mrs. Johnson and Willie are particularly wasted here. 
Secondly, Dark Shadows was never ABOUT the horror elements within it. It was about a dreamlike romance, and it relied on the supernatural for its intrigue. NONE of which was the focus in this film. Instead, Burton repeatedly bashes the audience over the head with the concept of making fun of the seventies. Alice Cooper, The Carpenters, lava lamps, disco "happenings," none of which played ANY part in the timelessness of Dark Shadows.
I wonder why he didn't throw in a black guy with an afro, while he was at it?
Another awful mistake was in the character of Barnabas, himself. He is supposed to be a tortured man, who hates what he has become. His obsession is to recreate the image of his lost love. Depp's interpretation shows us a fool who doesn't understand modern-day technology, and feels no pain from the lives he ends, because he conveniently passes all of that blame on to Angelique! This Barnabas' motivation is, in fact, to have more guiltless sex with her, then drive her out of business. It's a sin that he has more on-screen chemistry with his nemesis than his supposed lady love.
The alleged humor of the film mostly fell like lead balloons with me and the audience I saw it with. The low point was Julia giving Barnabas oral sex. And it wasn't enough to disrespect the original characters. It extends to a handful of the original actors, as well, who cameo for all of three seconds. Hardly the "passing of the torch" I had been led to expect. Actually, veteran horror actor Christopher Lee fared much better as a loyal Angelique employee. He actually had some real dialogue with Depp in one scene.
The final hour of the film has all the fireworks. Literally. It is left up to the SFX to save the movie. Another thing that classic Dark Shadows would never do, because, as you know, it wasn't about the SFX, either.

So, Camp A people, enjoy! This movie was made for you. And it will dazzle other moviegoers who are not Dark Shadows aficionados, too, most likely, even if it isn't to the same extent that "The Avengers (2012)" has.
The rest of us? Better luck next time, assuming there is one.

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May 14, 2012
Nice review Walt. I am in the B camp too so I may have some issues. However, I am tired of the retelling of the Barnabas tale which has been done so many times that this take may make it fresh. I have a lot going on and haven't been to the movies in quite some time. This movie is on my must see list along with The Avengers.
May 14, 2012
I'm looking forward to M.I.B.3. I really enjoyed the other films (and even the animated series), and the trailer makes it look like another deadpan romp into that outrageous world.
May 15, 2012
Other than Rosario Dawson, there wasn't much I liked about #2. The comercial did look good though.
More Dark Shadows (2012 Film) reviews
review by . May 12, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Tim Burton Brings Barnabas Collins in the Swinging, Hip 70's....
When I first heard that Tim Burton was making a film based on the vampire soap opera of the same name “Dark Shadows“, I have to admit I really didn’t know what to think. Burton is great in making his own material but I have always had mixed feelings when it comes to him re-interpreting other people’s works. I loved “Nightmare Before Christmas”, “Beetlejuice” and “Edward Scissorhands”. I even liked “Cabin Boy” but I had …
review by . May 26, 2012
posted in Dark Shadows
I'm an old school Dark Shadows fan who used to run home from school like everyone else, saw both of the original films when they came out, protested at NBC when the 1991 series was cancellled and have attended several of the conventions. Given all that I really enjoyed this film that injected comedy and changed the Barnabas Collins tale.     This one left off the time travel and had Barnabas freed from his coffin into a present where Collinwood is in ruins and the family is far …
review by . May 23, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
**1/2 out of ****    "Dark Shadows" does well to give us just about everything we've come to expect from a director-and-star collaboration between the highly imaginative Tim Burton and the illusive character actor Johnny Depp. There's a heart and it's always beating; illuminated by Burton's colorful, visionary sets and camerawork. The man knows what he wants, what we want, and what the studio wants in return. He's out to please. Sometimes, this is a problem, and other times, …
review by . September 05, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
   There's no miracle that Tim Burton knows how to create dark cartoonish worlds in which wild colors and vivid characters battle for the enchanted ground of these fantastic universes. Dark Shadows is wild, goofy, and colorful but it kinda feels like an asthma crisis. You know you have this urgency and impatience to watch the next Tim Burton film but even as a fan of him it does nothing in the end but providing you sudden gasps time after time. It's an interesting thing because …
review by . May 15, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
A Visually Beautiful Gothic-Like And Delightful Film
      Tim Burton and Johnny Depp come together again in this wonderfully delightful film.  Depp proves again that he is capable of successfully portraying any type of character - his talent seems to reach out to the viewer in a huge way - every role he has played he always manages to convince me he really is the character he's playing; it's almost hypnotic, and his role as Barnabas Collins was no exception.      The film starts out as Collins …
review by . May 12, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         In a 2007 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Johnny Depp proudly stated that, as he grew up watching Dark Shadows, he wanted to be the vampire Barnabas Collins. “I think lots of kids did,” he said. “He was super-mysterious, with that really weird hairdo and the wolf’s-head cane. Good stuff.” Depp is now luckier than ever to be dear friends with Tim Burton; apart from the fact that he helmed this year’s film …
review by . May 10, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Remember when Tim Burton had some indie cred, and his emo movies were something new that brought credibility and something different to the movies.  Remember seeing his remake of Planet of the Apes, how he had them wear those stupid hats, just how upset you got seeing it, and wishing things could go back to the way they were.  It hasn't.  You would think a movie based on a sixties vampire soap opera would be right up his alley.  And maybe it was.  And Burton …
review by . May 10, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
'Dark Shadows' 'Two Jews On Film' Show Their Teeth Over Johnny Depp's Campy Performance (Video)
      By Joan Alperin Schwartz      For those of you, like myself, who aren't familiar with the television series 'Dark Shadows' which ran from 1966-1971, here are the film's cliff notes...   The year...1750 (give or take)      A wealthy young man named Barnabus Collins (Johnny Depp) gets it on with his maid, Angelique (Eva Green) who just happens to be a witch...She feels the love...He...not so …
review by . May 10, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
DARK SHADOWS Written by Seth Grahame-Smith Directed by Tim Burton Starring Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer and Eva Green   Barnabas Collins: Of all the servants I could have spurned, I got the witch.   The original soap opera television series, DARK SHADOWS, is before my time, I’m afraid. I’ve never seen the show but from what I understand, it was a bizarre endeavor that, about six months into its roughly 5-year and 1225 episode run, introduced ghosts and other supernatural …
Quick Tip by . September 14, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Can't wait for this film to arrive. It changes the storyline from what has been done before as it is told in chronological order, without the time travel that the previous incarnations had. Great cast including Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Lee and original stars Jonathan Frid, Kathryn Lee Scott, Lara Parker and David Selby. Depp looks like Michael Jackson in some of the shots.
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Member Since: Mar 25, 2012
Last Login: May 21, 2013 09:16 PM UTC
About this movie


The first photos from the set of TimBurton’s Dark Shadows adaptation have surfaced online and they reveal Johnny Depp looking about as creepy as you would expect him to look in a Burton film. In case you’re unaware, Dark Shadows sees Depp making a turn as Barnabas Collins, a powerful playboy who is buried alive in the 18th century only to reemerge in 1972 as a vampire who is none too pleased with the ruin of his once fine piece of real estate.
Check out the set photos and an official synopsis after the jump. Also starring Chloe Moretz, Helena Bonham Carter, EvaGreen, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Lee and Jackie Earle Haley, Dark Shadows is slated to hittheaters on May 11th, 2012.
Click over to Celebuzz to check out more Dark Shadows set pics [click to enlarge]:
Here’s the official film synopsis:
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 ...
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