Dark Shadows Movie: DOA

By Karen

I hated the comical advertisements for Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows movie, but I couldn’t stay away opening day.

I should have.

I’m not doing spoilers, but will say this DS was neither an homage nor a mockery of the show. Rather, it’s a cynical hijacking of well-known, beloved characters, locations, and plotlines that enabled Burton & Co. to skip creating their own.

I don’t care what fans they’ve claimed to be. They obviously didn’t know the basics–right down to the name of servant Willie Loomis.

Screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith doesn’t know sh** about vampires. Since when do their fingers grow when they turn? And walk freely in daylight with sunglasses and umbrellas (á la Michael Jackson)? And not notice themselves bursting into flame in direct sunlight?

Johnny Depp’s decision to play Barnabas Collins channeling Nosferatu doomed the movie. When the “real” Barnabas (Jonathan Frid) was freed from his coffin in a new century, he noted changes in people’s behavior, speech, and dress, and did his best to fit in—albeit with a suave and courtly Old World flair. The FIRST thing he would have done was CUT HIS DAMN FINGERNAILS.

Depp’s Halloweeny white greasepaint with black eye sockets and cheeks made it impossible to believe that Victoria Winters—or even the witch Angelique—could be attracted to him.

And speaking of Victoria, the governess. As the reincarnation of Barnabas’ love, Josette, Bella Heathcote was woefully miscast. She looks about 12 and they dressed her like a child, so in her scenes with the boyishly-built Depp, they looked like 6th-graders. Zero sexual chemistry.

Eva Green played Angelique as sexually agressive trailer trash in designer labels. Her centuries-old beef with Barnabas drove the whole story, but Depp’s goofy looks killed whatever sparks might have been there.

Helena Bonham Carter had to play Dr. Julia Hoffman as a boozer for no reason, and her growing co-dependency with Barnabas got no screen time, so her behavior just seemed shallow and wacky.

I’ll give credit to Michelle Pfeiffer, who played matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard. She lacked Joan Bennett’s regal presence, but she didn’t make the character ridiculous.

The overall film was extremely dark. The comic bits used in the ads were forced and fell flat.

This could have been a good movie if Depp hadn’t made Barnabas a buffoon. He even carried an cheap wooden knockoff of Barnabas’ elegant brass wolf’s head cane.

The original Dark Shadows’ may have had cheesy production values, but the actors gave it something this film, with its multimillion-dollar budget, utterly lacked—heart and class.

Depp and Burton had a chance to resurrect the franchise for original fans and a new generation, but they blew it. Big-time.

16 Responses to Dark Shadows Movie: DOA

  1. annie pelfrey says:

    thanks! i am a Dark Shadows cult member.
    was thinking of seeing this movie- but now thinking NOT!

  2. catsworking says:

    Annie, I should have followed my first instinct and waited for Netflix. I didn’t mind them taking some liberties with the story, but for no good reason, they made Bella Heathcote be Maggie Evans assuming the name Victoria Winters, but she didn’t have Maggie Evans’ backstory. It simply made no sense and added NOTHING to the plot. It was like they tossed in gratuitous references to pacify the original fans while they made a hash of everything else.

    And Jonathan Frid’s “cameo” appearance lasted about 3 frames. If you looked down to check your popcorn, you missed him. The other 3 original cast members did show up for a few seconds in one other shot. None spoke.

    It will be interesting to see how the original cast musters enthusiasm so they don’t hurt ticket sales.

    My prediction is that attendance will drop off quickly and this flick will sink like a stone. Jonathan Frid’s death a few weeks ago was probably God’s way of sparing him from seeing his signature role dragged through the mud.

  3. annie pelfrey says:

    not to laugh, but how true- Frid is rolling over in his grave!
    do you remember the tv series remake? i had to detox when it was cancelled!

  4. Nina says:

    Watched the 1991 revival yesterday on Chiller, skipping the movie.

  5. catsworking says:

    I watched the Ben Cross DS when it was first on TV (1991, it seems) and HATED it. I was still too close to the characters (having actually met and spent some time with Jonathan Frid in 1988), and couldn’t accept the new actors.

    But not too long ago I watched it again and wished it had run for more than one season. Ben Cross was excellent, and I loved the actress who played Julia (can’t remember her name – Barbara Steele?). Johnny Depp could have cleaned himself off, lost the fake fingertips, and truly become the new Barnabas. Instead he and Burton went for cheap yuks and even failed at that.

  6. annie pelfrey says:

    do you think they wanted a new audience , not us fanatics?

  7. Zappa's Mom says:

    My oldest brother used to rush home from school to watch DS and i used to spy on him while he watched…why,i don’t know….but i enjoyed watching it because it was sophisticated and dark.When i first started seeing the commercials,i didn’t understand the reach for the cheesy humor.I think Annie Palfrey is right.which doesn’t say much for this new audience.

  8. annie pelfrey says:

    oh yeah! we would come home from school and meet at neighbor’s house to watch! you either get it or you don’t. how weird are we????

  9. catsworking says:

    I wasn’t into soaps and would have totally missed DS if a friend hadn’t told me about it. I was immediately hooked by Barnabas, and also got hooked on One Life to Live because it came on right before or after DS.

    I think this new DS movie is definitely trying to appeal to a younger demographic, but I don’t see Depp’s silly Barnabas gaining much of a following.

    Did any of you ever watch Strange Paradise, a Canadian DS knockoff? I thought I must have dreamed it until recently I Googled around and found that it really did exist.


  10. mercadeo says:

    Dark Shadows producer Dan Curtis’s original idea had been to edit together footage from the original TV series into a feature-length film, an idea which was quickly abandoned. The TV series was still in production while the film was being made. Some characters had to be temporarily written out of the show so that the actors would be available to appear in the movie. Barnabas, for example, was trapped in his coffin on the TV show by a failed writer who wanted to use the vampire’s life story as the basis for a novel.

  11. Zappa's Mom says:

    Off topic,but is anyone watching this mess,”Around The World In 80 Plates”? Top Chef combined with Amazing Race? When will networks stop confusing obnoxious and irritating (characters) with exciting and compelling ? People that we would actually like to watch compete in a reality show? The grating contestants and sloppy editing of a show in Lyon…gorgeous capitol of gastronomy ….had me saying mais non

  12. adele says:

    A couple of things — People Magazine gave Dark Shadows two and a half stars, said it almost succeeded, but maybe it was time for Johnny Depp and Tim Burton to break up for awhile. I never watched the original D.S.; it started when I was in college, and I was always in class, and I was working by the end of its run. That Canadian vampire series sounded kind of good, though.

    And ZM, I watched the first episode of Around the World in 80 Plates and haven’t gone back. That chef from Fenway, who apparently can’t cook but can connive managed to stay on, and that got on my last nerve. I’ve pretty much had it with reality TV; I find I’m no longer watching any of the Housewives and don’t care about any of the others. Now House Hunters International — that’s a different story.

  13. catsworking says:

    ZM, I’ve heard of the show, but haven’t seen it. The networks just keep churning the same old, same old, trying to transform it into something new. Just like Taco Bell has been doing for years.

    Like Adele, we’re all pretty much over competition reality TV as well. I managed to miss every episode of Top Chef in Texas, and life without simpering Padma was good. Have sworn off Dancing with the Stars because I didn’t give a crap about any of the “stars,” and I hate watching anybody dance to bad music. Don’t watch any of the Housewives. I guess it’s down to House Hunters International and Holmes on Homes (love that guy!). I’d watch Hotel Impossible if Travel Channel would put it On Demand. Bastards.

    Adele, I don’t think there were any vampires in the Canadian knockoff series. It was just about some guy who lived in a mansion on an island and was haunted by his late wife. He had a couple of creepy servants. When I try to remember it, I think more of Addams Family than Dark Shadows. But I watched it because DS gave me a taste for that genre.

  14. MorganLF says:

    Karen I knew you’d weigh in on this topic, being the Frid devotee you are but I never really got traction with that show. It was all the rage and I tuned in, I remember the shitty production value Joan Bennett and Frid but can’t say I know anything about the soap.

    From the commercials it seemed that Tim Burton was going for his usual vibe the askew – the weirdly funny. I’ll wait for it on HBO.

    Now totally off topic, who has been watching the visually gorgeous, riveting and completely captivating Magic City on Starz?

    As a kid who lived in Coral Gables, right outside of Miami for a bit the show resonates and is vastly entertaining, and now even more out of the wheelhouse – is anyone watching Howard Stern on America’s Got Talent? It is the goods!

  15. catsworking says:

    I’ve never heard the story about splicing together series footage, but both the previous Dark Shadows feature films starring original cast (House of Dark Shadows, 1970, and Night of Dark Shadows, 1971) were made while the series was still in production, so characters had to disappear for a while from the show to film their movie roles. However, Barnabas wasn’t in the second film.

  16. Zappa's Mom says:

    Thanks,Morgan,for the recommendations.I love Howard Stern and I will get Magic City on Netflix

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