Movie #271 2020: Dark Shadows (2012)

It may seem as though I watched this because it’s officially Pumpkin Season, however, I watched this in August and I’m only just getting round to a review so… screw your assumptions!

Dark Shadows is another mega-ensemble horror/comedy from the mind of Tim Burton. Johnny Depp returns (obviously) to a leading role in Burton’s film, this time as the quirky vampire known as Barnabas Collins. When Barnabas is dug up from his coffin in 1972, he makes his way back to his old home which is now inhabited by his his descendants. It just so happens those descendants include Michelle Pfeiffer and Chloe Grace Moretz. He and his family quickly come to realise that his old arch nemesis (Eva Green) knows of his return, and swiftly plots his downfall once again.

Why did this make the watchlist this year? Well, now that Johnny Depp is apparently not a wife beater, my girlfriend thought we should watch one of his movies and not feel guilty about it, so here we are. 

Setting this in the 70s is a bold but great choice. Not only is it the best decade possibly of all time, but it lends itself to creating a perfect soundtrack and some excellent costuming. Dark Shadows excels on both those accounts, and the time period saves the film from falling into dull territory.

The plot itself, however, is a bit hit and miss.

Firstly, there are way too many characters. It’s quite apparent that Tim Burton just wanted to give each of his mates something to do – Helena Bonham Carter’s character is completely unnecessary, as are the two kids. Michelle Pfeiffer is only barely relevant, but I’ll let her off because I could never say a bad word about our queen. Each character does play a part, but whether all of those parts are absolutely necessary is neither here nor there.

Furthermore, everything about Dark Shadows is so confused. It’s like no one really knew what the tone of the movie was supposed to be. Is it a comedy? Who knows! Parts of it felt Sleepy Hollow-esque in style but then there were some attempts at jokes… most of which fell flat. I’m baffled, and by the looks of it, so were the cast. It’s quite clear that they were mostly here just to help out a friend.

Overstuffed cast aside, I have to say that Eva Green stands out as the best of the bunch. She plays evil witch bitch so good it’s not even funny. This is no diss to Pfeiffer though, it’s just that she has so little to do that it’s depressing.

At the end of this movie, my girlfriend pointed out that no one creates such an instantly vivid world as Tim Burton does, and I’m inclined to agree. Though this one isn’t as wonderful as the one in Edward Scissorhands, it is abundantly clear what this world is all about from the start, and you have to applaud him for that.

As a movie, this is evidently not Burton’s best work, and it won’t be remembered for very long. It is – at the very least – a feast for the eyes aesthetically.

Dark Shadows is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video in the UK.

TQR Category Ratings:

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