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“Dark Shadows” – Early Review (NEGATIVE)

May 7, 2012

I’ve never seen the original 60’s/70’s TV series, “Dark Shadows”, nor do I have any real intentions to watch it. It’s been called cheap, cheesy, camp, and stupid, granted it had a fan base, but nothing big enough to grab wide appeal…unless you’re a Tim Burton Goth-head.  Nearly fifty years after the series existence, Tim Burton decides to adapt the show into a big budget summer blockbuster, starring his golden boy Johnny Depp. If he can make a billion dollars off a horrid reimagining of “Alice in Wonderland” what says he cannot do the same with a film based off of pure cheese itself? Sadly, I don’t see this film following in the footsteps of Burton’s previous efforts. It’s dull, boring, filled with unlikeable characters, and enough visuals effects to cover up its blandness that’ll make the “Avengers” fans want to puke.

In the year 1752, the prestigious Collins, set sail from Liverpool to start a new life in America. But even an ocean was not enough to escape the mysterious curse that has plagued their family. Two decades pass and Barnabas (Johnny Depp) has the world at his feet-or at least the town of Collinsport, Maine. The master of Collinwood Manor, Barnabas is rich, powerful and an inveterate playboy…until he makes the grave mistake of breaking the heart of Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green). A witch, in every sense of the word, Angelique dooms him to a fate worse than death: turning him into a vampire, and then burying him alive. Two centuries later, Barnabas is involuntarily freed from his coffin and emerges into the very changed world of 1972. He returns to Collinwood Manor to find that his once-grand estate has fallen into ruin. The dysfunctional remnants of the Collins family have fared little better.

My problem isn’t the concept of “Dark Shadows”, I find it fun and exciting to watch a plot set in a world where vampires, ghosts, witches, werewolves are all around us, set in a time period that is probably best fitting for the subject matter, open to a world of possibilities to make the jokes more entertaining. But, when you hire a writer that’s only success is conjuring two horror satire novels (Pride, Prejudice, & Zombie & Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) and never really having the challenge to fully develop and flesh out characters within 100 or so pages for a two hour movie, that’s when things really start to show signs of faultier. Seth Grahame-Smith’s screenplay is tedious and lacks conventions of a decent horror/comedy. Many who saw this film before its release, or press screenings for that matter, have compared the movie to “Beetlejuice”, one of Burton’s earliest and most well acclaimed comedy efforts. To me, I think this movie was trying too hard to be another “Beetlejuice”; people seeing ghosts, a dysfunctional family living under one rood, a jackass supernatural being living amongst them, a fellow youth experiencing angst, and so on. It’s seriously just a simple parallel to “Beetlejuice”.

One of the biggest issues with the movie is the use of it’s supporting players; you’ve got Victoria (Bella Heathcote), the governess, whose past brings her to Barnabas in the most unlikely of ways, her emotions, her feelings are just barely touched upon in the film. It can also be said about the young lad named David (Gulliver McGrath), a strange boy who embraces the even stranger. Victoria states to Barnabas that the boy looks up to him, yet we don’t see ANY of this. I would’ve liked to see the relationship between David and Barnabas play out more, have Barnabas stand as a greater father figure rather than the schmuck David has as real dad. Instead the movie is focused all on Barnabas and the witch, it’s constant scenes of him telling off Angie that she’s a bitch-witch and it never ends, hence the movie becoming boring. What made “Marvel’s The Avengers” so good in it’s story is that the writer (Joss Whedon) found a way to focus on each character equally and flesh them out in this very strange world, so when they all finally come together, theirs a better pathos to their actions. The Collins’ do come together at the end to fight a greater evil, but it’s more in a matter of circumstance and like I stated before, tedious.

=There are a few positive qualities; the visual effects are top notch here, and the supporting performances by Chloë Grace Moretz & Jackie Earle Haley have the best screen time. Chloë makes a great hip-hippy with a snappy attitude, and Jackie can play a minion almost to perfection, he reminded me of Igor. There are a few amusing cameos in the film, Christopher Lee as a fisherman, but lets face it, it’s Lee being Lee, you’ve seen it before and it’s nothing special. Now, why Burton decided to bring in Alice Cooper as himself I will never know. It’s embarrassing to have Cooper play a young 70’s version of himself, and having him lip-sync his own work is truly pathetic. You know honestly I’m just gonna straight up not recommend this movie, sure there are Burton fans out there, some of them are readers of mine, so they’ll choose to ignore me, because they love Burton’s pale skinned, darkly circled eyed freaks. So see it, don’t see it, who cares, in the end we all know that “Marvel’s The Avengers” will stay on top.

GRADE: D+

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