Dark Shadows…(a.k.a ‘It Could Have Been Worse’)

(Warning: There exists the very slight possibility of spoilers below….if you care about that sort of thing.)

When I heard they were making a movie based on the old television series, Dark Shadows, I was sort of excited. It was a pretty decent slice of my childhood and it’s one of those shows I look back on fondly, even though it’s cheesy as all get out by today’s standards. Then, I heard it was to be a Tim Burton production and my excitement became something akin to optimistic trepidation.

He may be successful and millions might think he’s great but, to me, Burton’s just another long-haired weirdo in my view. Bottom line. I can’t really think of any movie of his I was actually excited to see besides the very first Batman and I was too young to know better back then. Don’t get me wrong and, in all honesty, there are a few Burton movies I like….Beetleguice and Planet of the Apes chief among them….but,  I still cringe when I hear his name attached to something I like.

After seeing some stills from the film and reading a bit of the plot, I had pretty much made up my mind that I wasn’t going to see it. Then, of course, my (not so) blushing bride said….of course….”Hey, I wouldn’t mind seeing that!”. So I grunt noncommittally until she brings it up two more times….then say…”O.k.”

Anyway as I”m sitting there watching this movie something strikes me as odd.  It wasn’t really a comedy as almost every trailer I saw for the film had indicated. I mean, it had some comedic moments sure, but it wasn’t a total comedy.  Between this and John Carter of Mars, methinks Hollywood has a serious marketing problem.

Without getting too much into the plot, itself, I’ll just touch on some of the good and the bad:

The Good:

  • As much as I want to dislike Johnny Depp….I just can’t. He does a pretty decent job as the family-centric, sophisticate, Barnabas, even if he still comes across pretty nice for a vampire.
  • Michelle Pfeiffer also gives a convincing performance as Collins family matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard. She must have that “Lynda Carter” gene, or something, because no matter how old she gets, she still looks great.
  • The look of the film was good. It was a period piece, set in 1972, and…for good or bad…it stuck pretty much to it. To this day I still loathe bell bottom pants.
  • The t.v. show was known for having vampires, ghosts, witches, and werewolves among the characters. Without saying too much, let’s just say you’ll see all of that in the film version.
  • Props were paid….even though it was briefly. During the party scene, look for brief cameos by some of the original cast members. They’re not hard to spot….the gray hair gives them away.
  • A brief cameo by one of the all time great vampire actors, Christopher Lee!

The Bad:

  • Even though a lot of the family had that pale look to them, Barnabas was ridiculously pale (yes, I do realize he’s a vampire but, still..). Plus he had these giant circles under his eyes and his fingernails looked like something that would make William Lee Golden of The Oak Ridge Boys be ashamed of.  Yet, no one seemed to notice. It’s like they just knew they were in a Tim Burton film.
  • Some of the characters are real thin on background. Trust me, there was time for a little back story on everyone.
  • IMDB clocks the movie at 113 minutes but, man, it sure seemed a lot longer. Some parts tended to drag a little.
  • Hippies. Yeah, I know it was 1972 but, really, were there still that many hippies running around back then?
  • A big (at least in my opinion) plot  point involving Carrolyn Stoddard just jumps out there, right at the end, and isn’t really even touched on. It could have been cool had they done more with it earlier. Maybe more on the cutting room floor that will make it into the DVD?
  • Helena. Bonham. Carter. Come on Tim, seriously, the chick’s already going out with you….you don’t have to keep putting her in your movies. Just sayin’…
  • While I’m no prude, by any stretch, I thought there was a bit too much sexual innuendo/situations for my taste. My wife said the same thing, pretty much, and she was in the Army if that tells you anything.

All in all, this wasn’t a terrible movie by any stretch. I will say, though, if you can catch a matinée or cheapie showing somewhere, you’re probably better off doing that then paying full price.

Not that it’s high praise but, like the title of this posts says, it could have been worse.

4 responses

  1. You know, I agree with you completely about the sex (one scene with the Dr. especially), but for the most part I liked it. Now, I’m not going to run out and buy it on DVD when it comes out, but I thought it was a good date movie. Great post!

  2. Hey thanks! 🙂 I’m not sure if I’ll get it when it comes to DVD….jury is still out on that one. And, yeah, the scene with the Dr. was a bit over the top for my tastes.

  3. Thanks for the great review – you confirmed my thoughts that I won’t bother watching it. Maybe when it’s a cheap DVD I will for a giggle. As much as I think Depp’s a great actor, the combo of him and Burton is enough to put me off before I saw those trailers.

  4. Thanks Shen, you’re too kind 🙂

    Yeah, if you’re just wanting a bit of a laugh, it won’t disappoint there but, if you were a fan of the old series, you might have an issue or five with it.

    I like Depp also, he’s really done a lot of good stuff in recent years but, like you, I wish he’d leave Burton at home.

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