What the Hell Did I Just Watch: Dark Shadows Film Review

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Last night I reeeeeeally didn’t want to cook. Whenever I don’t want to cook on a week day I use it as an excuse to go to the Alamo Drafthouse. In Austin, and now numerous other cities, to go to the Alamo means getting dinner and a movie all at once for a reasonable price without having to put up with other peoples’ crappy, crappy children.

There are a number of movies coming out this summer that I’m very excited about.

MIB III. Oh, fuck yeah, I’m gonna see this!…at some point.

Moonrise Kingdom. Can. Not. Wait. I’m currently stalking tickets for this because, even though today is its opening, it is no where to be found in the Austin area.

Prometheus. I don’t have to explain this.

Frankenstein starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Johnny Lee Miller. This is only available on June 6th and 7th. I’m still searching for a theater that will feature this incredible piece.

And those are just the movies coming out between today and June 8th.

Yeah, I mean, the MIB III is a little shameful, but everything else I am truly excited for. Which is why I allowed myself of seeing Dark Shadows last night: to promote Tim Burton’s career. This is a review of said film.

Photo Credit SomeLikeItRetro

Dark Shadows is the tale of Victoria Winters and the Collins family set in the small sea side town of Collinsport, Maine. Once a wealthy shipping and canning family, the Collins have fallen from their former glory in the eighteenth century to the town outcasts in the 1970’s. The very few remaining Collins still reside in the original mansion of two hundred rooms though only Elizabeth Collins Stockard, the matriarch without husband, her dishonest, slimey brother Roger Collins, Elizabeth’s daughter Carolyn, and Roger’s son David are all of the Collins name that remain. Also living in the home are two caretakers who provide minimal comic relief and Dr. Julia Hoffman, a psychiatrist hired to aid David work through the tragic death of his mother whom he believes is still living. Victoria Winters, an assumed name she adapted in an effort to forget her horrifying past and build a new future, is drawn to the Collins family through outside powers to accept a governess position for David. The story is entertaining, though flawed, and blatantly left open-ended; a sequel, however, is highly doubtful.

In usual Burton form, Dark Shadows is visually appealing, colorful, feeds your inner child. Johnny Depp, coming into his own as a deeply true character actor, transforms into a creepy, bloodthirsty, and honest Barnabus Collins with an excellent post-Britain/New Colonies accent that never falters. Just as well done was Johnny Lee Miller, perfect as the philandering, sleazy uncle, Helena Bonham Carter, playing a psychiatrist and her hangovers as an art form, Bella Heathcote acting both the delicate and beautiful Victoria Winters and Josette, and Eva Green perfectly portraying the vengeful Angelique, and all flawlessly hiding their own native accents from England, Australia, and France.

Photo Credit INeedMyFix.com

With the exception of Chloe Moretz (something I never thought I’d have to say about her) the acting was fantastic and, in fact, my favorite was Michelle Pfieffer – her acting through looks alone could kill. I always expect Johnny Depp’s characters to become how he personally portrays them, the way Santa Claus has become what Coca Cola has dictated, something done so well that it is that which is committed to memory above any prior notions. Eva Green is evil, vengeful, and immensely seductive as the witch Angelique, the scorned lover of Barabus, who is hell bent on ruin all Collins family members until the end of time. Gulliver McGrath as David Collins was fleetingly wonderful, simply not in the film enough, where as Moretz’s overly dramatic and poorly timed teenage angst was rubbed in our faces far too much. In fact, without revealing any spoilers, I will go so far to say that her entire character could have been scratched from the script without having any impact on the story.

The story starts off at a rapid pace. We learn quickly that Barnabus is easily swayed by pretty flesh though his heart is not. Once in the ’70’s, the roles of those living in the Collins Manor are played so thickly that their actions become a bit predictable all too soon. Some bits are over played (we get it, an eighteenth century vampire attempting to reconcile disco is super silly, the sex scene is hysterical, but does it have to go on for so long?), but other characters that have depth and mystery about them, such as Victoria and David are barely touched upon. The actors did the best they could with the script they were given, with the exception of Moretz, who, again, wasn’t really necessary to the story at all.

Photo credit BlogOfDarkShadows.com

Unfortunately, good acting is not enough, nor is a performance by Alice Cooper and excellent costuming. Dark Shadows does not need to be seen in theaters. It simply doesn’t. It’s entertaining if you’re a fan of Buton’s work and worth seeing at home once it’s streaming through Netflix, but it lacks the heart breaking beauty of Sweeney Todd or the larger than life characters of Beetlejuice or Peewee’s Big Adventure that are simply art in a theater. The laughs are primarily small chuckles and some characters that are very interesting are barely seen making the veiwer come away wanting more, but not in the form of a sequel. That being said, I am deeply interested in his Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, also due out this year, and will not hesitate to see it when it arrives at my local Alamo Drafthouse.

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2 thoughts on “What the Hell Did I Just Watch: Dark Shadows Film Review

    Steve said:
    May 25, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    Kate,

    I think you should ask for your money back, it’s a movie that didn’t need to be made especially when its source material was a really slow, boring soap opera. Alas, how I remember ABC being the craptacular network, the Fox of the Seventies, airing anything to get attention until Gary Marshall and Aaron Spelling created “higher brow” fare.

    kayto82 responded:
    May 25, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    Why would I ask for my money back when it was a film that I happily went to see, had little to no expectations, and to simply to aid in Burton’s career as mentioned?

    I found it entertaining as it fed my need for Burton’s style of story telling, and merely stated that it doesn’t need to be seen in a theater. My review had nothing to do with it’s televised inspiration, which I chose not to bring up because this is about the film. That’s the great thing about going to the theater: no one makes you go and you don’t have to see a film you don’t want to see.

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