Tim Burton and Johnny Depp sometimes go together like peanut butter and jelly. They compliment each other and taste delicious like in Ed Wood or Sleepy Hollow even. But other times… not so much. Dark Shadows is one of those “other times”. The story begins with a flash back to the 1700’s where Barnabus Collins rejects the servant girl Angelique who wants for his love and affection. She curses Barnabus with vampirism and hypnotizes his true love Josette to fall to her death on widows peak. Upon discovering that Barnabus is a Vampire, the townspeople chain him in a coffin and bury him deep in the woods. Fast Forward to 1972 when workmen stumble upon his grave and wake him from his long slumber.
Dark Shadows is a retelling of the TV soap from the some 40 years ago that I have never seen so I didn’t go into it expecting some familiar story. The first act of the film is a basic “fish out of water” premise. Barnabus returns to his stately Collinwood mansion to find the remnants of the Collins family surviving with a dwindling family fortune in the dusty decaying mansion. Michelle Pfieffer appears to be the only member trying to hold the family together. Her daughter, played by Cloe Moretz is a typical 70’s teenager and her brother and his son are dealing with death of his mother. There’s some good stuff to be had in the first half of the film, good 70’s music, some decent comedy bits which you’ve already seen in the previews, and some Burton-esque visuals that will feel familiar.
SOME SPOILERS AHEAD:
But the film starts falling apart about halfway in when you realize the villain doesn’t seem to be much of a threat and the story is figuring out where it should go next. Angelique, the witch who cursed Barnabus is still alive and is running the towns largest fishing operation. She allows Barnabus to start a new Collins cannery and fishing business, or at least does little to stop it. She’s still in love with Barnabus and spends most of her time trying to win his affections again. But once again Barnabus has found his true love in a woman that looks like Josette and is apparently haunted by her ghost who keeps asking her for help? It never made clear on why she’s seeing a ghost or why she looks like Josette but She’s come to Collinswood or is drawn there to find Barnabus. It’s one of the many plot points that never pay off.
When the final act finally limps along theres a big dumb showdown between Barnabus and Angelique but no rules are ever set on how he can defeat her they just fight till its time for the movie to end and then she can die. In the beginning of the film Barnabus tells us he delved into black magic for answers on his parents death which I thought for sure would end up providing the answer for getting rid of Angelique but, nope, that’s forgotten. Then there’s a major transformation of another member of the Collins family that comes out of nowhere and has absolutely no impact on the outcome of the story. In fact there are three pieces of story that come out in the climax that go nowhere. Then the movie ends.
None of my party particularly like the film and we were all Burton fans from all the way back to Beetlejuice. I was hoping for something more akin to Sleepy Hollow in Dark Shadows. I had thought this might be a return to form for Burton and Depp but instead it just seems like another cash in on a somewhat familiar property by the director and his muse.