Tim Burton being the movie wizard of my childhood, people who know me at all will know that I’m somewhat biased when it comes to Burton’s films but that said, I will attempt to objectively review this one fairly and without any emo fanboy nonsense.
Dark Shadows was wicked cool you guys!!!
I’m kidding, it was fine.
As trendy as it is these days to pan anything Mr Burton does, sadly this review won't. I mean, granted his movies post-Mars Attacks haven’t really reached the heights of his earlier works but a so-so Tim Burton movie tends to still be way more fun than most other films of that type and Dark Shadows is no exception. Actually, there aren’t many movies of that type making this the most original Burton film in years. The mix of overdramatic soap opera and Hammer-style horror is rare but works brilliantly here. Watch as vampires and witches worry about their seafood businesses in an unknown shitty little town.
Actually, the film falters when it strays too far from all that and tries to spice things up with even more jokes about how Johnny Depp’s newly de-graved vampire Barnabas Collins is out-of-touch with the new world he’s been reborn into. We get it: 1752 is different than 1972. Frankly the McDonald’s joke and the Alice Cooper joke would have been more than enough. Also there was little need to pile on the vampire lols as we are all very much aware that vampires and humans are not quite the same. The humour, as you can see, is pretty hit-and-miss.
Barnabas’ origin story feels familiar with flashes of Sweeney Todd and Sleepy Hollow but looks fab and feels like pure OTT Hammer nonsense. The cast of supporting characters we get is spot-on with Michelle Pfeiffer’s matriarch fitting in perfectly into Burton’s world once again and looking decidedly awesome sporting a double-barrelled shotgun. Eva Green is our dastardly witch with a gooey pink heart and body made of eggshells (I’m not making that up, watch the movie), Helena Bonham-Carter is the suspiciously dodgy Dr Julia Hoffman, Jackie Earle Haley is Barnabas' very own Igor Willie Loomis and Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass’ Hit Girl) brings the 70’s teen attitude as Carolyn Stoddard.
It’s the weirdest family since The Addams but by the end you’ll wish you were one of them. Either that or you’ll just be happy your family isn’t THIS messed-up.
The plot involves Barnabas trying to get the family back to their once respected status within the Collinsport community, this means starting a cold war with the witch that cursed him and cleaning up the garbage within the Collins family itself. Oh and some bloodsucking also. The aforementioned fish-out-of-water jokey bits do overshadow the plot in the first half of the film and the pace starts to drag a little bit but luckily, it all leads to the goofy and completely, unashamedly fun second half in which the cold war becomes a little bit more than... cold. One wishes that more would have been done with some of those great, colourful characters but on the whole, everyone gets a chance to be wacky and that's good enough for me.
Based on the far gloomier and far cheaper TV series, Dark Shadows would have probably benefited from a more serious (note: soap-opera serious) tone and a lower budget (note: under $100M?) but as it stands it’s great fun and does have its share of surprisingly dark moments. It also boasts Burton’s most satisfying third act since Sweeney Todd. Actually, you could say the film is on a par with the latter ranking it above Alice In Wonderland but just below Sleepy Hollow. Definitely a step in the right direction for the director but we’re not quite there yet.
Time to ditch the adaptations I think…
Overall, I personally had a ball and thoroughly enjoyed the Death Becomes Her-style cult wackiness. Burtonites won’t complain, others should find it accessible and unique enough to enjoy it for what it is.
Not ground-shakingly impressive but a very cool little blockbuster.
With a VERY healthy budget.
And evil wooden fish...