Dark Shadows Movie: DOA

May 12, 2012

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.


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