Dark Shadows ReviewDark Shadows
Director: Tim Burton

Cast: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Eva Green
Rwview by Brian M. Sammons

Let me start off by laying my cards right on the table so you know where I’m coming from. I’m really sick of the Burton/Depp tag team. Sure they’ve made some good movies together in the past, but they have also made some crap. Sadly, this movie falls squarely in the latter camp. Ok, maybe that’s a bit harsh. This film adaptation of a much loved cult favorite TV show from the 1970s isn’t really crap. It is a one note joke that gets old very quickly and it’s a comedy that’s more boring than funny. So yeah, it’s not exactly crap, but it is close.

Once again Johnny Depp does his “aren’t I weird” act that director Burton seems to love so much. Here he plays Barnabas Collins, a rich man in the 1700s who spurns a young witch’s love and in doing so is cursed to become a vampire. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Barnabas was then buried alive (or buried undead) until the early 1970s. Now freed, Barnabas returns his ancestral home after a quick, but messy, bite to find his descendants in dire financial and emotional straits. Since his daddy once told him that family is what mattered most in the world, vampire Barney takes it upon himself to fix things with his family while keeping his bloodsucking nature on the down low. Wackiness ensues as does some drama when Barnabas discovers that the lovelorn witch who cursed him two hundred years ago is still alive and pining for him.

Oh remember that one joke I mentioned earlier? Well here it is: Barnabas just doesn’t get the modern 1970s. He doesn’t understand an electric McDonald’s sign. He thinks a car is Satan. He assumes shock rocker Alice Cooper is a woman because he’s named Alice. He doesn’t get modern lingo like ‘stoned.’ He thinks little people are stuck inside the television. Do you get it? Are you sure? I mean, I can keep beating you over the head with it if it’s too subtle for you? After all, that’s what this movie does. Isn’t that hilarious? Well if you think so, then you might like this movie a whole lot better than I did. I, however, got tired of the gag within the first twenty minutes and by the hour and a half mark it was actually starting to anger me. I guess I can only take so much bludgeoning.

Now the movie wasn’t completely dire. I did like the Alice Cooper cameo, even if some heavy makeup (or perhaps even CGI) was used to de-age the veteran rocker back to his ’70s era prime. Young Chloë Grace Moretz continues to show that she’s turning out to be a heck of a good actor as a precocious teen … up until the point where she had a sudden out of the blue character development at the eleventh hour of this movie that was, in a word, stupid. And not all the jokes miss or are tied to the fish out of water theme that gets so old so fast, so there are a few laughs to be found here. Still, all these little things combined cannot offset the tedium that was this movie.

As for the extras on this new Blu-ray from Warner Brothers, it has one of those neat pop up, picture in picture commentary tracks. Unfortunately it doesn’t actually pop up all that often, only appearing for roughly 1/3 of the movie. There is no full length commentary track or any featurettes to be found here, but there are five deleted scenes that really aren’t worth the time to watch. It is a combo pack with Blu-ray, DVD and downloadable copy, so there’s that. But really, the special features are a bit light here.

If you are a fan of the Depp and Burton one-two punch then you may get a kick out of this movie. If you’re a fan of the old Dark Shadows TV show, then I can’t imagine that you’ll like this flick much as it’s an “in name only” adaptation of the venerable spooky soap opera. If you’re neither sort of fan, like me, then you’ll probably just be bored silly by this thoroughly unfunny comedy. Because of this, I can only give this new release a conditional recommendation to some, but a pass to the majority of people out there.

About Brian M. Sammons

Brian M. Sammons has penned stories that have appeared in the anthologies: Arkham Tales, Horrors Beyond, Monstrous, Dead but Dreaming 2, Horror for the Holidays, Deepest, Darkest Eden and others. He has edited the books; Cthulhu Unbound 3, Undead & Unbound, Eldritch Chrome, Edge of Sundown, Steampunk Cthulhu, Dark Rites of Cthulhu, Atomic Age Cthulhu, World War Cthulhu and Flesh Like Smoke. He is also the managing editor of Dark Regions Press’ Weird Fiction line. For more about this guy that neighbors describe as “such a nice, quiet man” you can check out his infrequently updated webpage here: http://brian_sammons.webs.com/ and follow him on Twitter @BrianMSammons.

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