Dark Shadows (2012)
Directed by: Tim Burton
Running time: 113 minutes
Anyone who knows me personally will probably know that I am not a huge fan of Tim Burton. My main beef with him is mainly that whenever I hear of a Tim Burton film being made it can usually be described using the following phrase: “it’s [insert book/film/comic here] only with the brightness and contrast turned way down!” And while this has been known to work for him (Batman (1989)), it has also been known to just be terrible and boring (Alice in Wonderland (2010), Batman Returns (1992)). And at other times he seems to have not messed with anything at all and done a straight up adaptation and it has been just super (Big Fish (2003)). So when I heard that Dark Shadows was an adaptation of an old 1960s sitcom about a vampire, then you can imagine my ensuing sigh of contempt. The film, however, surprised me.
Now Showing this week is Dark Shadows, directed by Tim Burton as previously stated, and sees his partner in crime Johnny Depp playing Barnabas Collins, a man in the 1700s who after rejecting the affections of a witch named Angelique (Eva Green) has been cursed to be a vampire and locked in a coffin for all eternity. Around two hundred years later he is dug up and freed, and he learns that his descendants fishing business is going under due to competition headed by Angelique and vows to restore them to their former glory and best his nemesis.
I must say that I found the acting in this film to actually be pretty good. I can’t really say that there was a bad egg among the cast, and particularly Depp as the vampire was entertaining to watch. Depp seems to have taken what he learned from playing Jack Sparrow but combined it with a character who has a sense of nobility and “breeding” as they would have put it back in his day. And Eva Green is quite enjoyable as the witch Angelique. While her accent was a little strange at times, she just has a smile that is at face value sexy but on a closer look just devilish which suited the character really well. The supporting cast were all fine; Helena Bonham Carter (who still brings me much joy because I can say she is literally “doing the director”!) plays an interesting alcoholic therapist. Cliched, yes, but still interesting. The children of the family seem to have interesting back stories of their own but they are never really brought to fruition, which was disappointing. The main adults, Michelle Pfeiffer and Jonny Lee Miller, were good as well, just mainly underused and background characters.
An aspect of this film I appreciated was that while it is basically a twist on the well known rival businesses comedy but with a vampire and a witch at the helm, the film did occasionally have moments of true terror and intimidation. Barnabas’ excavation leads into a creepy, shadow in the night slaughter of the men who found him which excellently established him as a monster. There was also a moment involving a person under a bed sheet that I have to admit was genuinely terrifying! So well done Mr. Burton on that front, your love of Gothic horror proved most useful here.
Now I come to the part of the review I’ve been dreading because for the last couple of days I have not known how I was going to describe this next section. I’ll start off by just outright saying it and then we’ll see how I go. Dark Shadows was a really enjoyable rival business, supernatural, “out of his time” comedy, right up until the final section of the film. The reason I didn’t like the final section of the film was (here goes…) because it was when the film suddenly became all “Tim Burton-ey”.
The film suddenly became far more surreal than it had already been; it suddenly involved inanimate objects coming to life, and some introductions to some new kinds of monsters that were completely out of left field and never actually explained. Basically what I mean by “Tim Burton-ey” is that the movie all of a sudden became too weird and very anti-climactic. My girlfriend and I were both in agreement in that we both sudden thought “what the heck is with this?!” at exactly the same moment just before the finale began.
But well done Tim Burton, you defied my expectations of this film and gave me a funny experience with a good vampire, a devilish witch and a fantastic running gag about Alice Cooper. And while you may have succumbed to some strange desires at the end, I still enjoyed the film. Until next time…
The rest of you, see you next time!