Movie Issues: Dark Shadows Review

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Movie Issues: Dark Shadows Review

Based on the 1960s television show of the same name: Dark Shadows is the story of Barnabas Collins, a vampire turned after breaking the heart of a witch. Buried alive, he is accidentally set free in 19721 and returns to his beloved town and family home of Collinwood, now occupied by his dysfunctional descendants.

Directing this new take and homage to the TV show is macabre master Tim Burton. Once more bring his quirky style and morbid sense of humor to another dark story.

This movie has a lot of strong points. Setting it in the 1970s, with appropriately rich 70s-film-style cinematography definitely helps the mood; Dark Shadows has the strongest style and feel I’ve ever seen in a Burton film that’s not his own material. Rather than solely a source of humor, the film relies upon its “man-out-of-time” premise. So the jokes on this topic throughout the movie never feel forced or outdated. Skilled art direction and set dressing meant nothing looked out of place, and the costumes managed to transform Burton’s signature style into believable 70s attire.  Nothing looked out of place, a credit to the art direction and set dressers.

Dark Shadows exhibits Burton’s trademark special effects and attention to detail. Some of the best in the movie are used on Eva Green’s character Angelique, a two-hundred-year-old woman whose use of dark magic gives her a dark allure to conceal her true self behind a porcelain shell.

The cast of the film is its biggest draw. Johnny Depp is adept in another Burton film, but his acting would be nothing without the rest of an amazing ensemble. Michelle Pfeiffer and Depp have a wonderful chemistry, and I hope to see more of them together in another Burton film in the future.  Helena Bonham Carter’s alcoholic live-in psychiatrist, Chloe Grace Mortez and Gulliver McGrath’s Collins children, and Jackie Earle Haley’s manor caretaker are all great screen presences worth recognizing.

Once more Danny Elfman lends a dark-fantasy sound to the score, but Dark Shadows doesn’t rely on his morose sound for the mood and tone.  It features some awesome contemporary (for the 70s) songs that work just as well- sometimes better, with songs from Alice Cooper and Donovan’s “Season of the Witch” further enriching an already lush film.

This movie’s first two acts are solid, bringing the soap-opera melodrama that made the original show popular.  But the film begins to fall apart in the third act.  The final battle for Barnabas’ soul feels rushed; it’s almost like Burton forgot to pace himself to fit a movie less than two hours long. The final climax is rushed and cluttered – an overload of unnecessary ideas whose combined excess drags the movie away from the entertaining family drama. Story arcs remain unresolved for a sequel that almost certainly will never happen.

All in all, I enjoyed Dark Shadows a lot and would gladly see this black-humor gothic dramady again. It is definitely a Tim Burton movie of the old style, the child of Beetlejuice and Corpse Bride. A little morbid curiosity mixed with love. And really who doesn’t love that?