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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Off Their Game
by Betty Jo Tucker

Back in the late sixties and early seventies, I was hooked on an ABC soap opera called Dark Shadows. So were millions of others! It boasted spooky sets, an enigmatic vampire, a sexy witch and all kinds of mysterious happenings. That’s why I was so eager to see the movie version. The film’s awesome cast -- headlined by Johnny Depp as vampire Barnabas Collins and including Jonny Lee Miller, Eva Greene, Michelle Pfeiffer, Chloe Moretz, and Helena Bonham Carter -- added to my anticipation. Finally, because Tim Burton signed on as the Dark Shadows director, I was expecting it to be weirdly fascinating like Sleepy Hollow, Alice in Wonderlandand Edward Scissorhands. As most of you know, those films also star Depp, so I thought this offering would be another winning combination for Burton and Depp. These two artists bring out the bizarre in each other, and that’s just what Dark Shadows cries out for.  

Sadly, I could barely sit through this disappointing film. Nothing about it even came close to living up to my expectations. As an avid Depp fan, my negative reaction to his performance pains me the most. In fact, I'm still in a state of shock over being bored while watching a Johnny Depp flick. It bothered me that he seemed to be more concerned about his long clawlike fingernails than his overall interpretation of vampire Barnabas Collins. And I missed the humor Depp usually brings to the strange individuals he loves to play. 

We were led to believe this Dark Shadows would be a horror-comedy, but no one laughed once during the screening I attended. Plus the only horror here involves feeling unsatisfied with most of a film featuring such intriguing characters as a vampire, a witch and a werewolf. Still, Eva Green’s (Casino Royale) energetic performance as the evil, seductive Angelique did help me stay awake whenever she appeared on camera.  

Critic Kevin Ranson of Movie calls Dark Shadows “a beautiful production design in need of a worthy plot.” I can’t help agreeing with him. The film annoys us with its incoherence, probably because so many things are thrown into the mix including romance, horror, a dysfunctional family, betrayal, different time periods, revenge, and soap opera spoofery. However, the movie looks like a Tim Burton production should. A decaying mansion, foggy nights, photogenic cliffs -- all contribute to the visual quality of Dark Shadows.

Seth Grahame-Smith (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) wrote the confusing screenplay, which follows the rich and powerful Barnabas Collins as he breaks the heart of witch Angelique Bouchard back in 1792, gets turned into a vampire, is buried alive for two centuries, then returns to his ancestral home and descendants who need his help in their struggle against Angelique. Barnabas finds things changed indeed in Collinsport, Maine, and at Collinwood Manor. How I wish his reaction to these changes would have been more amusing than just plain silly.  

Regardless of my feelings about Dark Shadows, I hope Depp and Burton will continue their film collaborations. Because they were off their game in one project doesn’t mean they should give up. How about working together on a remake of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde next? That would be right up their alley! 

(Released by Warner Bros. Pictures and rated”PG-13” for comic horror violence, sexual content, some drug use, language and smoking.)

For more information about Dark Shadows, go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.

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