Reviews: Dark Shadows

Mess of a film

For a movie as bad as this one, I think it's best to start with what I liked.

As others have pointed out, this movie has a decent start. After Barnabas' backstory, it introduces Victoria in the Collins house. She was likeable, the set looked good, and although the exposition was forced, I was actually interested.

It looks great. The Collins' house is beautiful, the 70's looked cool, and so on.

Oddly enough, I kind of liked the villain most out of all the characters. Eva Green is having a ball with Angelique, and is a very entertaining Bitch in Sheep's Clothing.

That aside, this film has many, many problems, ones which I can't believe no one making this film noticed.

Most of the other characters were simply underwritten, especially David and his father. They could have been cut without affecting much of the story.

Next, the romance between Barnabas and Victoria. It's weak. As I said, Victoria shows up at the start, but then disappears throughout most of the movie, except for a few scenes just before the climax. It's almost insulting that they expected me to believe that they love each other when they have no chemistry, no real development, and hardly any scenes with just the two of them.

Next, there's Barnabas. While Depp is great, as usual, this is hardly his best work. He's funny at first, but never tries to blend in, and it gets stale quickly. The character himself I didn't like either, simply because he's a murderer. He kills about twenty people, never shows any sort of shock, horror, shame, etc. Even worse, the movie expects me to forget them, going from him slaughtering people to fish-out-of-water jokes. Why should I like him? How is he better than Angelique? Why should I root for a callous murderer? I've seen other murderers before that I kind of like, but he isn't likeable enough, and the people he kills aren't despicable enough for me to root for him. Although I haven't seen the show, I hear that Barnabas was a villain there who tried to overcome his bloodlust, and that this doesn't do him justice.

Lastly, there's a pointless twist at the end which comes out of nowhere, and adds absolutely nothing to the story. That's all I will say on that.

Overall, a bit of ironing out would have made this a much better movie. It's clear they had too much story and not enough time.

Good start, but the climax is a bit naff

Overall, I thought Dark Shadows had an entertaining first half, but the end was poorly-executed.

The good first. The movie has just the right amount of camp to be entertaining without being stupid or obnoxious. Johnny Depp as vampire Barnabas Collins is tremendously entertaining in a Stranger in a Strange Time situation, and I actually laughed out loud at several of the jokes. Tim Burton's directorial style works really well in combining the gothic and the comic.

But there is also bad. First off, Victoria. She seems to be the main character when introduced, but is quickly pushed into the background when Barnabas reappears. Burton tries to set her up as as love interest for Barnabas, but the two barely interact, and when they do there's no chemistry. As it stands, she could easily have been cut without harming the movie. This wouldn't be too terrible, but the climax insists the two have some sort of deep, transcendent love, which they clearly don't.

Also, in the last 20 minutes, Caroline reveals out of the blue a secret of the sort that you really have to hint at before revealing.

The biggest flaw, however, is Angelique, played by Helena Bonham Carter. Angelique is entertaining, but comes across as a pitiful woman scorned who can't be complete without the love of a man she last met a really long time ago. There are some decent moments between Angelique and Barnabas, but overall they just aren't as entertaining as Barnabas' interactions with his descendants and the modern world.

Really, Burton was trying to make two movies here; one where Barnabas comes to terms with the present, and the other where he does so with his past. This movie would really have worked better if Angelique was cut almost entirely; rather than focusing on her conflict with Barnabas, a superior movie would have resulted from focusing entirely on Barnabas restoring the family fortunes. With Angelique out of the way, there would be time to actually have Victoria do stuff - like, for example, teach David, which is what she was hired for. This would allow her to act as a foil to the Collins family, throwing their characters into sharper relief.

Then, in the last five minutes, have Angelique appear, looking angry. Bam! Sequel hook that works much better than the rather rubbish one that actually made it in.