“Dark Shadows”: Dark comedy or comedic tragedy

courtesy of Warner Brothers Production

The Collins family, shown from the movie "Dark Shadows."

Deborah Graham, Online Editor
May 13, 2012

Beside the fact I did not read the marquee correctly and thought I was seeing a film in IMAX 3-D, I plunked down a hefty $17.50 to see “Dark Shadows” and can say unequivocally I did not get my money’s worth. Tim Burton’s new movie can’t seem to make up its mind whether it wants to be a comedy or a romantic thriller. Instead, we get treated to a bipolar movie that is, at times, really funny, but mostly full of unnecessary exposition.

I am a Tim Burton fan but unlike such animation classics like “The Nightmare Before Christmas” or another Burton pairing with Johnny Depp, “Sweeney Todd,” this movie was a ghastly gothic failure.

I think Burton wanted to honor the ’60s TV show by adding in many details. The main problem was in its plot development. The storyline starts in the year 1752 where we find Joshua and Naomi Collins and their son, Barnabas, (Johnny Depp ) sailing from Liverpool, England to start a new life in America. Barnabas‘ parents die and he becomes an egotistical brat who spends his time making sure “Collingsport” (the fishing town named after his parents) become one of the most powerful towns in the area.

Eva Green, who plays the character ,Angelique Bouchard ,becomes obsessed with Barnabas, and her jealousy (and the fact she studies witchcraft) leads her to lure Barnabas’s true love Josette (Bella Heathcote) to her death and curse Barnabas to be a vampire for eternity. Two centuries later, Barnabas is freed from his tomb and emerges into the very changed world of 1972. It is with this transition the film just gets real campy. I felt like I was watching Beetlejuicemeets “Corpse Bride.” It could have been an interesting story but it ends pretty lazy. There are couple of senseless twists that aren’t consistent. The saving grace in this film was the music. It held true to its ’70s theme. The production design was also very authentic to the time period. Alas, even the addition of ’70s rock icon Alice Cooper could not save this film.

“Dark Shadows” is undeniably entertaining and nothing else. If I could go back through that time portal I would retrieve my $17. 50 admission fee and my $4.50 popcorn fee. Depp seems to be drawn to these macabre movies, but even with his weird Williy Wonka-style acting in the film, it is still doomed. The final shot suggests a sequel … which would be a curse. My take advice: stay home, rent Netflix and chow down on Orville Redenbacher. I give this 2 out of 5 stars.

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