Dark Shadows

WRITTEN BY: Seth Grahame-Smith
STARRING: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Eva Green, Helen Bonham Carter
RATING: 2.5 stars

Johnny Depp and Tim Burton have collaborated on eight films, all of which have been a little (or a lot) left of field in their quirky, dark humour. Some collaborations have been a success (Edward Scissorhands) while others are best forgotten (Corpse Bride). Their latest offering is Dark Shadows, based on the television series from the 60s and 70s. If I can say one very positive thing about the film it's that it is a different kind of vampire film to what we've seen recently. Unfortunately, aside from a few good laughs thanks to Depp, the film lacks a substantive plot and, at almost two hours long, you're left wondering what took so long to get to such a minor point?

Dark Shadows tells the tale of the rich and powerful Barnabus Collins (Johnny Depp) who, in 1752, beaks the heart of a witch named Angelique Brouchard (Eva Green). Angelique turns Barnabus into a vampire and buries him alive to suffer for eternity. Two centuries later, in 1972, Barnabas is inadvertently freed. He returns to his beloved Collinwood Manor to find that his estate has been ruined. At the manor, he meets matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer) who has called upon psychiatrist Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter) and nanny Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcote) to help her nephew who sees the ghost of his mother. Barnabus decides it is time to take revenge on Angelique, who has become an admired town personality, and help the remaining members of his extended family rebuild the family name.

Seth Grahame-Smith has written a script that is all over the place. He introduces us to a character and then forgets about them for 20 minutes and reintroduces them before they mysteriously drop off the radar. It seems there are too many ideas compressed into the script and yet, nothing really happens. It would have been interesting to explore the boy's relationship with his ghost mother and learn more about Elizabeth's daughter too. The characters are seemingly quite complex but they aren't developed enough. Instead, the story is focused on Barnabus, which is fine, but then little happens to him for a film that stretches so long.

Depp is, as always, entertaining and quirky in Dark Shadows. The scenes where his character must adjust to the way of life in 70s is especially good. For a theme that is so overdone in films where the protagonist has been reawaken in the modern world or time travelled, Depp brings a freshness to those awkward adaptation into society scenes. Green also does a great job as the evil, sexy witch. She's fun to watch in all her scenes. Unfortunately, Pfeiffer, who was apparently a fan of the television series, is not at all challenged in this film. However, she does look amazing for a woman in her 50's and it's great to see an older actress who is able to frown! Bonham Carter has unfortunately become so engrossed in her director husband’s style that she doesn't have an opportunity to shine like she should in this film either.

If you're a fan of past Burton/Depp collaborations, then you will like Dark Shadows. I think it is one of the better collaborations between the pair but it is still lacking. Frankly, I'm over this director/actor relationship. What do you think?


  1. I think I enjoyed this a bit more than you but I completely understand your gripes with the film.
    The plot is very disjointed and I actually thought that the character Victoria had died because its so long in between seeing her. I did love the soundtrack, especially the use of the song 'Knights in White Satin'

    1. Not a film for everyone, but those who did like it seemed to really like it.


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