Well, t’is the season for ghosts n goblins and, at a recent ‘theme night’ (Oktoberfest…go figure)…it was decided that SOMETHING Halloweenish was in order for visual entertainment. After MUCH searching and debating, we FINALLY settled on the latest cinematic endeavor of the (mostly) great Tim Burton. Now, as a rather discerning movie nerd, I was leaning on the ‘morbidly curious’ side of the fence as opposed to the “Holy shit, another Tim Burton movie!!!” side, being that I’d heard a whole lot of not-so-good-word-of-mouth about it, as well as a fair number of dismissive reviews. For those who don’t know, Dark Shadows is the big-budget adaptation of a (supposedly) beloved supernatural soap opera from the late 1960s, of the same name. The story follows Barnabas Collins, a young fishing mogul cursed with vampirism by a spurned lover…who just happens to also be a vengeful witch. Barnabas is confined to the dark innards of a coffin for 200 years till he is accidentally unearthed by a 1972 construction crew. In full blown vampire mode, he returns to his home….only to find that it is now inhabited by the newest (and messed up) members of the Collins Family Legacy. After a short while, they come to accept the archaic vampire into their midst. Hilarity ensues. Most of the negativity that I encountered in the lead-up to seeing the flick seemed to focus a sense of laziness and I’ll be honest. They were LARGELY right. The first two acts of the movie work as a Gothic fish-outta-water but by the time the climactic showdown with the witch (surprise!) breaks out in the confines of the massive Collins homestead, I’d found that I really didn’t give a shit. The was no real sense of purpose or consequence and that was further diminished by some really stupid plot-holes (Where the hell did the werewolf thing come from?!!!) that just rendered everything kinda tragically silly. But, as I mentioned, the first half of the flick is a lot of fun. As usual, Johnny Depp throws himself into bringing Barnabas to life *snicker*….and is awesome at it! Watching him struggle to blend in and understand the world of 1972 is a hoot. There’s a good portion of Dark Shadows that is laugh-out-loud funny, I will gladly admit. Depp is surrounded by a capable cast that all seem to be having fun with their varying roles. You’ve got Michelle Pfeiffer, Jonny Lee Miller, Jackie Earle Haley, Chloe Moretz, Eva Green and of course, Mrs. Tim Burton AKA Helena Bonham Carter (who is hilarious here). Mostly, the characters work, in the thin confines of the story…with the exception of Jonny Lee Miller. Miller is a damn fine actor, but he is completely wasted in this movie, with the added indignity of one of the worst ‘exits’ for a character ever. The primary problem with Dark Shadows is that it simply doesn’t know where it’s ‘going’, and it shows. It can be debated that Burtons brand of Gothic ‘flavoring’ could be on the verge of caricature, at this point. He needs to change it up a little. There’s only SO many fucked up-looking trees, ominous clouds and weird statues and buildings that we can take! I love the majority of Burtons filmography and I REALLY wish that I could whole-heartedly count Dark Shadows among his ‘greats’ but it simply isn’t a Batman, BeetleJuice or Sleepy Hollow. Fun…but flawed.
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