Review: Dark Shadows
|REVIEWS - MOVIES|
A spooky and altogether kooky dark comedy from the king of goth…
Over twenty years ago director Tim Burton made what some still argue is his finest film, Edward Scissorhands (1990); a gothic fairytale concerning a young man who has lived in isolation his entire life and the comic, and ultimately tragic, consequences he faces when he is forced into modern society. The film became a cult hit and launched the career of its star, Johnny Depp. Now, two decades and several collaborations down the line, the actor-director duo have returned to similar ground with their latest effort Dark Shadows.
The film stars Depp as Barnabas Collins, the lone heir to his family’s fortune who is cursed to become a vampire after he breaks the heart of a jealous witch (played by Eva Green). Forced to spend eternity in his grave, Barnabas is accidentally freed from his prison in the year 1972. He uses his new-found freedom to reunite himself with his living descendants, a dysfunctional bunch who have fallen on hard times, and to restore his family name to its prior glory.
The ensuing culture clash that Barnabas faces in seventies small-town America is not that different to the exploits of Edward Scissorhands. What separates the two films, however, is that Dark Shadows has its tongue firmly planted in its cheek. Freed from the reins of a weighty adaptation, such as his previous blockbusters Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2010) and Alice in Wonderland (2010), Burton seems to have finally decided to let loose and have a bit of fun. The result is a dark comedy that contains the type of camp humour that has been sorely lacking from the director’s output since Ed Wood (1994) and Mars Attacks (1996).
The inspiration for Dark Shadows comes from the short-lived sixties television show of the same name. The film had been a pet project of Depp’s, who also co-produces here, and his choice to once again work with Burton seems a logical decision in this context.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Depp’s Barnabas Collins is the best thing about Dark Shadows. He puts in a wonderfully eccentric turn as the vampire and gets all the best lines in the process. As a result, the film is at its best when Barnabas interacts with his alien surroundings. His curious movements and Victorian dialect provide plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. Highlights include a gravity-defying, Inception-esque sex scene, and a darkly comic encounter with a bunch of stoned hippies.
Nonetheless, as brilliantly deranged as Depp’s character is, his presence is not enough to carry the film. This is mainly due to the fact that, despite its central theme of family values, the other members of the Collins’ family are not granted anywhere near enough screen time. This ultimately derails the film as those underdeveloped characters are integral to the progression and ultimate resolution of the narrative. Instead Burton and his team of writers wait until the third act to introduce a barrage of character arcs that leave the ending feeling rushed, utterly unbelievable and thoroughly unsatisfying.
The lack of a resolution leaves the door open to a sequel but, in hindsight, the chances of a sequel actually getting made are very slim. Dark Shadows had a lacklustre opening weekend at the US box office and worldwide, which in Hollywood terms means that Depp and Burton will have to resort to black magic in order to scare up the finances for a follow-up.
Overall, despite offering some funny moments, Dark Shadows feels like a missed opportunity for everyone involved. Perhaps it is finally time for Burton and Depp to part ways and focus on their individual careers. Both have made their fair share of duds over the past decade and, regardless of their best efforts, Dark Shadows has a hard time falling outside of that category.
IF YOU ENJOYED THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE HELP SUPPORT OUR SITE, AT NO COST WITH ONE CLICK ON THE FACEBOOK 'LIKE' BUTTON BELOW:
If you're interested in writing for Shadowlocked (disc and screening reviews, etc, or just getting some extra coverage for your extraordinary writing talent, get in touch with us.