Review: DARK SHADOWS (2012)

A new Tim Burton movie? With Johnny Depp? AND Helena Bonham Carter??? It’s not possible!


Directed by: Tim Burton

Stars: Johnny Depp, Eva Green, Michelle Pfeiffer

MPAA Rating: PG-13





In the past couple of decades, Hollywood has taken a curious approach when adapting some television shows to the big screen. Usually, they find an old show that either was enormously popular or had a dedicated, cult fanbase. Then, they adapt it into a comedy version of that show; a version that is more interested in poking fun at the show than actually honoring it or showing it due respect. This was certainly the case with STARSKY & HUTCH and 21 JUMP STREET. The latest adaptation of this sort is the new Tim Burton film based on the gothic horror soap opera, DARK SHADOWS. Can Burton do justice to a beloved series for it’s transition to the big screen?

DARK SHADOWS follows Barnabas Collins as he rises from the grave and attempts to restore prominence to his family name and business. He must contend with a drastically changed world and culture after being buried alive for two hundred years, and he must contend with the nefarious witch who put him in the grave and destroyed his family.

The above plot description doesn’t mention the multitude of other plot threads at play throughout the film’s one hundred and ten minute running time. Mostly because none of them make any impression whatsoever. Even the primary plot elements get tired very fast. It’s too much story for one film to maintain, and the strain is evident from the beginning all the way to the end.

Also, the film seems to be confused about what tone to strike. There are times when it wants to be deadly serious, times when it wants to be melodramatic, times when it wants to be campy, and still other times when it wants to be flat-out silly. Am I watching a gothic horror soap opera, or am I watching a spoof of a gothic horror soap opera? I don’t think the filmmakers even know the answer. Unfortunately, neither will the audience. The melodrama is sappy and overblown, the horror is laughable, and the jokes are not funny. None of the elements work, which results in a pretty boring viewing experience.

All the bells and whistles of a typical Tim Burton production are present; from the look of the film, to the production design, the costumes, the make-up, and the music score. Everything is present and accounted for, but it all lacks the inspiration that was ever-present in the director’s earlier work. It feels like he is just going through the motions, and therefore the film lacks any heart or soul. Not even the impressive stable of actors can save it. Everyone is overacting in a manner traditional to most soap operas, but their performances lack the sincerity and conviction that keeps viewers engaged during those programs.

So, that’s DARK SHADOWS for you. It’s a visually sumptuous production that lacks any narrative or character focus and is emotionally hollow. Fans of the television show should stick with their old episodes. Fans of Tim Burton should stick with his old movies. Because neither group will be pleased with his latest effort.

DARK SHADOWS is now playing in theaters nationwide. It cannot be recommended by this critic.



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