Dark Shadows (2012)

Just when you thought vampires were getting lame, Jack Sparrow comes along and makes them hip again — sort of.

The movie centers on playboy Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) who is turned into a vampire and buried alive when he breaks the heart of the witch Angelique Brouchard (Eva Green) back in 1752. When he wakes up two centuries later in 1972, his manor has fallen into ruin and his descendants are in such state of discord that matriarch Elizabeth Collins (Michelle Pfeiffer) has called on the resident psychiatrist (Helena Bonham Carter) to help her and her family out a bit.

It seems everybody out there already realized that Johnny Depp and Tim Burton can’t get enough of each other. I mean this is their 8th collaboration and judging by it, I think it’s time for them to separate. It’s not always easy, but it’s for the best, guys.

The first trailer for this flick really had me anxious. I don’t know a lot about the 60’s cult TV show that this movie is based off of, but from what I hear, it definitely was all work and no play. Everything was so serious on that show, whereas the trailer promised a slightly goofy flick that more or less made a lot of jokes towards the earlier premise, rather than play them in a serious matter. Sadly, all of those laughs and all of that humor goes away pretty quickly and that’s when I realized that once again, I was jipped by Hollywood. Damn you!

That’s not to say there isn’t any humor here, because there is and it does work to an extent. The jokes and gags are funny and had me laughing a lot when I least expected to, but the problem was that all of the funniest material was already done to death by all of the commercials and trailers. Once again, damn you! The humor this flick has does add a little lift to the story, and whenever the film actually starts to focus on the soap opera melodrama that made the TV show so famous, Tim Burton goes more for a tongue-in-cheek approach that brings out some laughs. Funny stuff but should have been so much funnier.

With a plot like “ancient vampire, wakes up in 1970’s and experiences a culture shock”, you would expect that there would be an enormous about of jokes for Burton to play up; but instead he plays a more serious note. I know that the original TV show was sincere and all, but to have an idea that seems pretty original and something that would be deemed “comedic gold” turn into a plot the gets weirder and weirder just for the sake of being weird only makes it seem like Burton wanted an excuse to make a film to bring him back to his weird-o childhood days. Then again, maybe it’s as original as I once though and maybe it’s been done before. But come on, guys, what would you rather see?: a melancholy but meaningful “Dark Shadows” movie, or a “Dark Shadows” movie full of one-liners and odd humor? I choose the latter, but some folk might drift the other way.

As always though, Burton’s film does look pretty good in his dark, CGI way. Everything is so dark and gloomy, but yet very lavish; it shows that once again, Burton can do almost no wrong when it comes to his production designs. However, the whole gothic style started to wear off by about the third or fourth time I saw waves crash against the rocks, or whenever there would be an eerie piece of music played in the background when Depp came walking into a scene. It seemed like Burton didn’t have much faith in this material in the first place, so he just resorted to a bunch of random moments that would hopefully keep his audience glued. I was watching the whole entire time, but that’s only because I was waiting for Burton to really pull me in and give me something that I wasn’t expecting from him. Sadly, that is exactly what I got.

Regardless of what Burton did here, I still have to give a lot of credit to Johnny Depp because no matter what flick he is in, he always give it his all and that is no different here. Depp is fully committed to playing Barnabas Collins with his Old English delivery and goofy faces, and still gets most of the film’s laughs despite being a one-joke the whole way through. Collins is a vampire from another time, that is simply trying to adjust to a very different world but Depp is better than that and allows Collins to be one of his more erratic characters to date. Which is definitely saying a whole lot.

Backing up Depp when it comes to the laughs is Jackie Earle Haley as Willie Loomis, the bum who cleans the Collins estate and pretty much delivers every line with sarcasm and a snarl in his voice. Haley is so funny in this flick and it’s a real wonder as to why Burton didn’t give him more material to play around with. Michelle Pfeiffer is also pretty good here as the family matriarch, Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, even though her character gets pushed to the side by the last act; Helena Bonham Carter brings some laughs as the alcoholic psychiatrist Dr. Julia Hoffman, but should have been a whole lot funnier; Eva Green is very easy on the eyes but very over-the-top with her villainous role here as the evil witch Angelique; and Chloë Grace Moretz is fine as the teenage daughter of the family that is constantly being weird and seems like she’s about to sneeze every time the camera is on her. Still, with a cast like this you can’t go wrong but somehow Burton is able to just let them all fall by the waste-side so he can have some fun with his “passion project”.

Consensus: Definitely has some moments that are funny and very cool to look at, but as a whole, squanders a original premise with annoying jokes, loses its comedic edge with it’s semi-serious tone, and lets a great ensemble cast like this, do nothing other than play second-fiddle to the Tim Burton and Johnny Depp freak show.


Song of the Day: (hope you like this little thing I got going)

There are many films with the combination of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. If you would like to see more such as Edward Scissorhands then why not try an online service. LOVEFiLM provide an excellent free month trial which allows you to watch free movies online.


  1. Stylistically this movie is very Burton: everyone is slightly gray and it seems perpetually overcast. Plus you have Danny Elfman doing the music. There are definitely some funny moments involving the culture shock for Depp’s character, but the story gets boring toward the middle, and the villain is just one note.

  2. Agreed it was a big disappointment, a mutual admiration society between Depp, the Tim Burton “look” of the picture and Helena Bonham Carter. So many missed opportunities with the 70’s fish out of water jokes that they din’t develop more.

  3. Dan- I definitely agree with you. The production design was stellar and I also think the other performances took second fiddle to Depp. Thanks for reading my review and commenting.

  4. LOL – Chloe Moretz seems like she’s about to sneeze everytime the camera is on her! Thats a great description of that scrunchy face of disdain she was always wearing!

    I liked it more than not, but not by much. And its nearly impossible to recommend. You’re 100% right about the inconsistent tone. That was a huge issue for me. Very problematic.

    I also didnt care much for the finale…

    Another spot on job, I graded it higher, but wouldnt disagree with you and your assessment at all.

  5. Good review, Dan! I wish everything else in the movie matched the level Depp’s performance. They waste a great supporting cast and a missed opportunity to do something really fun.

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