‘Dark Shadows’ Review: A Few Strong Performances Cannot Save This All Around Boring Revivial of the ’70s Soap Opera

Photo Credit: http://www.slantmagazine.com/film/review/dark-shadows/6282

Oh Tim Burton, you used to be such a visionary. Now you revive a forgotten TV show in an even more forgettable film. What happened to the days of Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood?

Dark Shadows isn’t a badly made film. The camera work and set design is fantastic. Some of the performances are fun to watch. The story is as good as any on screen adaptation of a 1970s soap opera about vampires and ghosts could possible get. What it lacks is the imagination and sense of fun that most of Tim Burton’s films evoke. Not since 2001’s Planet of the Apes remake has his work felt so uninspired. Moments are meant to be both funny and scary but neither emotion comes through very strongly.

The plot of the film revolves around vampire Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) being awoken after two centuries in a coffin. The year is 1972, and the Collins are still a household name in the area. The witch who turned him into a vampire is still at large and giving the Collins’ trouble.

This is a film that heavily relies on its performances, and not enough of them are as eye catching as we have seen in many of Burton’s previous work. Johnny Depp lacks the sense of fun he was having even in one of the director’s lesser films Alice in Wonderland. Barnabas Collins just is not that interesting of a character, meaning that the script heavily relies on jokes about Barnabas not being up with the times. Michelle Pfeiffer maintains none of the charisma from her last outing with Burton where she played Catwoman in Batman Returns. She looks downright bored most of the time. Jackie Earle Haley and Bella Heathcote are barely given enough screen time to grab your attention. But even so they barely seem to be trying.

Luckily, there are a few decent performances that manage to break the bleakness of it all. Eva Green looks like she is having a ball as the film’s villain Angelique. Every line rolls out of her mouth like a sex starved harpy hunting for blood. Burton veteran Helena Bonham Carter is good as always. Here she plays the Collins’ family psychiatrist, who is also an alcoholic. Like Green she seems to be having some real fun with her role (but when isn’t Bonham Carter having fun?). Lastly, the young Chloe Grace Moretz continues to give every role her all and does a fine job as the Collins’ angry teenage daughter.

Sadly, however, these few performances are not enough to save Dark Shadows from its daytime television worthy script. The film just lacks the sense of excitement that Tim Burton usually has with these gothic tales. Even his mediocre Alice in Wonderland is far more energetic and exciting. Hopefully this fall’s Frankenweenie can restore some of the Burton greatness. Grade: C-


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