Dark Shadows Review

The Plot:

18th century gentleman Barnabus Collins (Johnny Depp) lands himself in supernatural trouble when he scorns the advances of a seductive young witch Angelique (Eva Green). After losing his parents and the true love of his life, he is cursed to become a vampire and buried alive for nearly 200 years. Emerging into the bizarre era of 1972, Barnabus resolves to restore the fortunes of his remaining Collins family descendants while seeking revenge and an end to his curse.

The Good

Tim Burton is a director with a unique style and distinctive visual flare.  Dark Shadows offers him the perfect opportunity to pay homage to both of the elements which have so clearly inspired him, combining 1970s kitsch and classic gothic horror. There is something gleefully silly about juxtaposing ghosts, witches and vampires with lava lamps and The Carpenters.  Adding a well-placed Alice Cooper cameo to the mix is also a nice touch.

Dark Shadows marks the 8th collaboration between Burton and his magnificent muse Johnny Depp. Depp remain one of the most mesmerizingly charismatic actors alive today. Universally adored he’s capable of carrying entire films on the back of his own stellar performances. Sit through the Pirates Caribbean franchise for a dramatic illustration of this.

Whilst Depp is on predictably fine form as polite and reluctant vampire Barnabus, luckily this time he can also rely on a strong supporting cast that includes the like of Chloe Moretz and Michelle Pfeiffer.

Eva Green deploys all her considerable other worldly charms playing a lusty villainous witch. With bleached blonde hair, piercing eyes and startling curves she manages to be convincingly scary and sexy simultaneously.

The Bad

Tim Burton’s trademark visuals and fondness for blood drenched campy horror is an acquired taste. It’s won him an army of devoted fans, but it does also alienate those who lack a taste for the dark side.

Compared to Burton’s previous work, Dark Shadows is perhaps most similar in tone to Sleepy Hollow, veering regularly between melodramatic horror and slapstick comedy. Some people may find the sudden contrast a little jarring. Although the film can claim a fair few laugh out loud moments, they’re almost exclusively courtesy of Johnny Depp.  The film’s frights also fall flat. There’s no shortage of blood, murder and monsters but it’s all too silly to ever be anything approaching scary.

Dark Shadows doesn’t make full use of its glittering cast either.  Helena Bonham Carter and Johnny Lee Miller in particular are given little opportunity to make meaningful contributions. In fact, Johnny Depp’s Barnabus is the only member of the pale faced Collins clan who generates any real intrigue.

The film’s increasingly outlandish climax works its way through mostly predictable plot twists and witch bashing action that lacks memorable magic. The last minute addition of shotguns, spells and all sorts of unexpected monsters feels more overblown than satisfying.

The Ugly Truth

Dark Shadows will be another slice of Goth genius for those that adore Tim Burton’s work, but if you’re not already a fan this certainly won’t be the film that finally wins you over.  Whatever your disposition, Johnny Depp’s supernatural charms and Eva Green’s sumptuous smouldering should keep things watchable and mostly enjoyable.

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