Skip to content

Dark Shadows: Movie Review

A reluctant vampire with irresistible swag, a mysterious women who is strangely drawn to him, a jealous voluptuous vixen who’s both a seductress and witch, a strange family in a creepy mansion, with secrets all around, and complexities that dates centuries back, tying everyone together, and leading them to a dysfunctional layout of humorous, Goth-like sarcasm.
In a nutshell, that pretty much sums up “Dark Shadows.”
With a template that goes back to ’60s cult-based television, breaking the mold for daytime soaps, fans of the original version are at an uproar debating whether they’re taking the dive or not once its rehash-for-the-silver-screen is released.
I’ve never seen any of the episodes, so I can’t really compare it to anything else. However, knowing its style of Goth, ghosts and witches pretty much blankets a portion of its entertainment value, it’s not really surprising Tim Burton (A fan of the original series) took it under his twisted-artistic-wing and made it his own. It doesn’t end there because what are Burton’s footprints without Johnny Depp filling them in…?
Working together on their eighth project (continuing their cinematic partnership), Depp not only holds it down as lead “Barnabas Collins,” but serves an even BIGGER role as one of the film’s producers, along side Richard D. Zanuck, Graham King, Christi Dembrowski and David Kennedy.
“Dark Shadows” basically traces the story of an imprisoned vampire who’s inadvertently freed from his tomb and emerges into a very strange world from the one he last knew. Retracing his steps, he winds up coming across what once was familiar to him, but under new rule. Although that ruling happens to be his dysfunctional descendents, piecing everything and everyone together winds up forcefully enlisting his help, as he so eloquently only knows how to provide.
One thing I quickly enjoyed about this movie was the quirkiness it provided. Having heard it was a dramatic piece back in the day, the “Adams Family” type of tone made me wonder how “dramatic” a piece like this could be knowing Burton was behind it. The film’s script isn’t one that enchants with dazzling lines and/or scenarios, but it does entertain and has a certain style to its tone. Meshing Depp’s 1700s character, with his precise articulation and gestures, alongside his contemporaries, with their time-frame 70s attitude and style was pretty interesting and entertaining.
Watching Depp’s darkish humor as a vampire was sort of strange, but because it was strange it worked. Depp is the type of actor that can take anything and make it his own. Nothing really over-the-top in a sense of jaw-dropping acting or scenery, but I thought the character he played in this film tied in pretty well for what once was a soap with over 1,000 episodes. The development for “Barnabas Collins” wasn’t the best, but as someone who never watched the soap, I was able to make out the type of being he was/is. Although elegantly charming and cordial, when called upon, he was visceral and brutal. Loving and respectful towards his own, but distant and cold with those not too fond of him…
A lot has to do with Burton’s interpretation of the characters, and the same would go for the rest of the cast which includes: Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Eva Green, Johnny Lee Miller, Chloe Grace Moretz, Gully McGrath, Jackie Earle Haley and Bella Heathcote. Never over-playing their roles, each presented what they needed to present and that was that. There are a couple of characters I felt weren’t necessary, but I’m not sure how much importance they had (if they existed at all) during its TV run.
Tied in with some pretty decent moments, a pretty good soundtrack and some blood, sex, and pretty freaky ending, “Dark Shadows” entertained me. It does have a 50/50 feeling of how others may take it in – especially hardcore fans – but it’s a decent watch. I won’t knock it.
Like fangs to a neck, or screams to a soul being bitten…Burton’s darkness is to Depp’s depth in “Dark Shadows.” 
Grade: B- / Genre: Drama, Horror, Comedy, Mystery & Suspense / Rated: PG-13 / Run Time: 1 Hr. 53 Min.
Starring: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Eva Green, Johnny Lee Miller, Chloe Grace Moretz, Gully McGrath, Jackie Earle Haley, Bella Heathcote
Directed by: Tim Burton