Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Barnabus Collins, as played by Johnny Depp, is deeply in love with Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcoat).  Kind of like in the way that director Timothy Burton seems to be in love with Johnny Depp.  It is conceivable that Helena Bonham Carter always shows up in her husband Tim Burton’s films, not because she’s an incredibly talented actress… which she is… but maybe because she needs to keep any eye on Johnny and Tim to make sure their bromance stays just that.  I’m just throwing it out there.  Today’s Burton / Depp alliance is ‘Dark Shadows’, something I’m told was a TV show back in the sixties.  As a movie, at least as far Burton / Depp alliances go, this is no ‘Sweeny Todd’ but fortunately it’s no… oh my, this would be at the bottom of the Burton / Depp alliances   Sorry.

As the story goes, Barnabus was happy young man back in seventeenth century Maine, having a little fun with the occasional trollop as young wealthy men tend to do, but unfortunately he picked the wrong one in Angelique the House Maid (Eva Green).  Angelique decided she loved young Barnabus and when Barnabus decided he couldn’t love her back, Angelique, who dabbles in a little witchcraft, has set in motion a series of events to make Barnabus’ life as bad as a life can be.  To cut to the chase, that woman we mentioned he is love with?  Angelique fixed that, among other quick fixes, and to add insult to injury turned Barnabus into a vampire.  I would love to know the biochemical interactions behind that magic spell.  Regardless, after Barnabus did his vampire blood sucking murder thing for a little while, the good people of Maine, tired of being sucked dry, and led by Angelique, locked Barnabus away for all of eternity.  Or until the next scene.

Fast forward a bit to the early, funky 1970’s.  The Collins family who once ruled this little town with their various fisheries are in bad shape.  Led by the matriarch Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer) The Collinwood palatial estate has fallen into disrepair, the family is completely dysfunctional and their fisheries has been usurped by Angelique the witch.  Yes, Angelique is around 350 years old, but she is a witch and stuff.  Good thing some unfortunate construction workers have set Barnabus free, who is mighty hungry, who reintegrates himself into the Collins’ family and vows to clean this mess up.

Another strange thing is that it looks as if Barnabus’ one true love Victoria has returned to him in the form of Josette the Nanny.  Hmm…. But then there is the issue of Angelique who still has a powerful love / hate thing for Barnabus, and still vows to destroy everything he loves if he doesn’t finally promise his love to her back.  I’m thinking this isn’t going to happen and we’ve already observed how Angelique handles rejection.  A supernatural showdown is looming.

First off, ‘Dark Shadows’ isn’t a bad movie, not in the least.  Maybe a little disappointing considering the talent involved, but it’s not a bad film.  Michelle Pfeiffer was great in this, the seventies vibe was completely awesome, entertainment-wise the movie was fitfully amusing at points, particularly Barnabus and his reactions to the television, and I completely agree with Barnabus and his assessment of Scobby Doo.  The story that Burton was telling us wasn’t anything all that earth shattering in its uniqueness, but it wasn’t an obstacle to an audience finding entertainment within the movie.

The thing is, while the movie is humming along, you’re kind of sitting there waiting for it get good but it was never able to cross that threshold, mired in a big old vat of simply ‘okay’.  

I’m thinking the overriding issue with ‘Dark Shadows’ was that it was stuck in the middle-of-the-road, not fully committing to being a horror movie or a comedy or a love story or anything for that matter, taking the machine gun approach and hoping it hits on something.  For reference ‘Sweeny Todd’ was a horror movie, ‘Ed Wood’ was a comedy and ‘Edward Scissorhands’ was a love story.  ‘Dark Shadows’ was all of that with a touch of ‘True Blood’ supernaturalism tossed in the mix.  All of those different elements worked in spots, but I don’t think this approach ever allowed the movie to settle into a rhythm. 

But it’s not an awful movie, like we pointed out earlier.  We’ve all seen awful movies and ‘Dark Shadows’ doesn’t come close to qualifying.  But I don’t think it’s unfair to expect a little more than ‘not awful’ from the usually trustworthy Depp / Burton collaboration

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