Ok so this one is a wee bit of a cop-out because we very much already have a review for Dark Shadows on the site. So you may think that the reasoning behind this is I can offer a different perspective from Kim and maybe come to the film’s defense. Nope, I basically agree with everything that she said and could probably copy and paste what she said verbatim into my review and it would apply 100% to how I feel about Dark Shadows.
At this point I think it’s time for Johnny Depp, Tim Burton and Helena Bonham-Carter to make an amicable split from one another for at least 5 years. I know we’ve had some great times with them, in fact more hits than misses overall. But after the one two punch of Alice in Wonderland and now Dark Shadows, I really think they need to ease off a bit. While I enjoyed Shadows more than Alice in Wonderland (a film I strongly disliked), I still can’t give it a recommendation.
I’ve never seen the show this movie is based upon so I can’t really say whether or not it’s accurate to the source material, though I’ve heard not so much. The plot follows Barnabus Collins (Depp) who has a curse placed on him by Angelique (Eva Green) and he is turned into a vampire and sealed away in a coffin for eternity because he didn’t love her and she’s crazy over-dramatic and magic. He is awakened in the seventies which is just crazy because a 19th century vampire doesn’t know how to deal with the seventies man! He’s not going to know what anything is! This is so crazy! He’s not going to know what McDonald’s is or what current music sounds like! Hilarity! By the way the McDonald’s joke is foreshadowed so blatantly that it hurt me just a little bit.
Anyway the first half of the movie is primarily a fish out of water story with Depp trying to adjust to the new century he has awakened it. Some of the humour works but that is solely because of Depp, not because of the consistently weak script. At this point we’re all more than used to Depp playing an eccentric weirdo but dammit he’s just so good at it! He’s surrounded with a group of very talented actors but almost none of them contribute anything since their characters are sub one-dimensional. Green is actually quite enjoyable as the villain I must say but Bonham-Carter, Michelle Pheiffer, Jackie Earle Haley and especially Chloe Grace-Moretz are given virtually nothing to do which is just tragic. Moretz’s character is the most unfortunate, spending the whole movie as a one-dimensional bitchy teenager who contributes nothing to the plot, only to be given the most out of the blue plot twist in the final 10 minutes. It comes out of nowhere, is completely fucking stupid, and is coupled with one of the worst lines of dialogue a human being has ever uttered.
That final 10 minutes, in fact the last half hour or so, is a big reason why the film doesn’t work. It’s at that point that seemingly the production decided they didn’t want to be a comedy anymore and suddenly veer completely into gothic horror territory. It’s very sudden and makes the whole final act feel out of nowhere and a little unearned. I honestly would have preferred the whole movie stick closer to the tone of the back end since I was honestly the most entertained by the sheer insanity that unfolds. I could have done with far fewer “oh man this vampire don’t understand these hippies!” jokes in trade for the balls-out craziness on display in these scenes, but alas here we are.
Dark Shadows also contains one of the most under-developed, uninteresting and flat out baffling romances ever put to film. Depp meets what I think is supposed to be a reincarnation of his past lover (who was forced to kill herself by Angelique before he is locked away) and is immediately taken with her. This doesn’t stop him however from having sex with just about every other character in the movie. Also he does occasionally, actually quite frequently, murder innocent people in cold blood. So it’s sometimes hard to understand why we should be rooting for this guy, other than hey we like Johnny Depp. Again if the movie had taken the darker tone for the entire run these moments would be more fitting, but they all happen during the more light hearted comedy section so they’re just jarring.
Dark Shadows is a huge misfire. For the first half it’s an unfunny comedy, then suddenly switches gears to a ridiculous, though granted far more interesting, horror piece in it’s latter half. It’s trying to be too much at once, and not doing a good job at being any of those things. We now have two negative reviews on this site, I don’t know how much more we can do to convince you that this is not worth your time! Just go watch Beetlejuice again, you remember that shit? God damn that’s good stuff right there. Cartoon is solid too, you should peep that out as well. You know what else ain’t bad? The Bill and Ted cartoon. I know right?! You would never expect it but it’s true! Too bad that pumpkin pancakes aren’t as good as I was hoping they would be…