REVIEW: Dark Shadows

Nebulous
Review by Vives Anunciacion
Published May 14, 2012
Inquirer Libre

Dark Shadows
Directed by Tim Burton
Based on the 1960s US TV series

Never before have I been confused whether to like a Tim Burton movie or not. The good news is that Dark Shadows is still unmistakeably a Tim Burton movie. The bad news is that you’ll wonder if it’s really a Tim Burton movie.

Either the colors weren’t psychedelic enough for its 70s vibe, or the sky wasn’t gloomy enough for a film called Dark.

Ever since Edward Scissorhands (1990), a Burton-Johnny Depp tandem was almost always a guarantee that the movie would be unlike anything we’ve seen before. That a Burton movie has a brand of uniqueness – weirdness – that can only emanate from the director’s trademark unruly hair. This is the first time I’ve seen his work lose that appeal. The weirdness is there, but the uniqueness is not.

Based on the hit 1960s US daytime soap opera of the same name (which I doubt if it was aired here), Dark Shadows the movie takes a quirky approach to the story of Collinsport, Maine, particularly the village’s most famous resident, Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp).

Barnabas was a rich playboy heir to a fishing empire in the 18th century, until one of his obsessed mistresses, the entrancing witch Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green) curses him to become a vampire. Locked in a coffin and buried, Barnabas is accidentally freed 200 years later and emerges into a modern, hippy 1972 Collinsport. Suddenly, this vampire needs to learn to disco.

Narrated by Barnabas in a particular manner of speech (in the Shakespearean sense, he “spake nobly as a gentleman,” though I think Depp was more playful with words in Sweeny Todd (2007), the story revolves around Barnabas’ attempt to revive his family’s fortunes, threatened by an undying enemy – Angelique’s panties.

The talented Ms. Michelle Pfeiffer is underutilized as Barnabas’ relative Elizabeth. Her first scene with Depp, Elizabeth’s encounter with Barnaby, is the only remarkable scene in terms of acting. Mrs. Tim Burton, Helena Bonham-Carter, plays Dr. Hoffman, psychiatrist to the weird Collinses.

Michelle Pfeiffer seemingly unconvinced.

While it seems that the production had all the fun making the movie, especially Green who plays an enchantress in many senses of the word, there’s not enough of that vibe emanating from the screen. It feels like Burton held back the camp and the weirdness, resulting in something that was not too funny, but not too dark either. I thought I was watching a half-hearted cross between Van Helsing and Pirates of the Caribbean.

All is not lost, because the film looks gorgeous. Colleen Atwood’s costumes enhance what fun and vigor the film needs. We’ll just have to blame an inert script for not inspiring Burton enough.

Dark Shadows may manage to pull a snicker here and a chortle there and even delight the typical Burton-Depp fan, however the film remains but a shadow of Burton’s former glory.

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