Film review: “Dark Shadows”

Anything Tim Burton does is worth a watch, especially since he always includes quirky and talented Johnny Depp (and for seven out of his last nine films, underrated Helena Bonham Carter). Burton channels late-60s soap opera of the same name starring Jonathan Fried (brief cameo as a party guest). The cinematography, production and texture are pure Tim Burton, genius.

“Dark Shadows works two film modes: comic dislocation and period satire.  Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) is turned into a vampire by an unrequited witchy lover (Eva Green).  Barnabas is released from his coffin centuries later to live with his cousin Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer) and her family. Unlike the original TV drama, the updated version is campy to a fault, and although entertaining with a great 70’s sound track (and Alice Cooper) but after the production cleverness wanes, is not completely satisfying.

Burton’s genius interpretation created a movie that’s funny for 15 minutes then fades quickly. Barnabas’ fish-out-of-water persona gets old quickly. The next hour and a half winds it’s way through sight gags, oblique dead ends and characters that don’t develop or when they do so, go out in ridiculous tangents that seem oblivious to whatever plot there might have been.

Definitely set up for a sequel.

An aside- Soundtrack during rolling of the credits is “Go all the way”, originally performed by awesome Cleveland group “The Raspberries” (1972).  Covered by “The Killers” for this film. The Killers version is VERY mediocre. Check out the great original written by the amazing Eric Carmen:

Best clip:  Barnabas confronting a television performance of Karen Carpenter rips the back off the set and exclaims: “Reveal yourself, tiny songstress!”

Worst feature:  Not terribly believable frenetic sex fight sequence, actors wore harnesses that spun them through the air.

All things considered, it’s entertaining if you don’t have anything else going for a weekend afternoon. If you waited for it to come on HBO, you wouldn’t miss much.

I give it 3.5 pasty complexions.


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