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Release Date(s)2012 (October 2, 2012)
For years, Johnny Depp wanted to make a feature film version of Dark Shadows, Dan Curtis’ gothic horror soap opera. Once he recruited frequent collaborator and BFF Tim Burton to direct, it seemed as though everything was in place to make a great, quirky horror-comedy. But for a passion project that was made with nothing but enthusiasm and the best intentions, the resulting movie is curiously flat.
Depp stars as Barnabas Collins, cursed to eternal life as a vampire by Angelique (Eva Green), the witch whose love he scorned in the 1700s. Unearthed in 1972, Barnabas returns home to Collinwood to lead his descendants in restoring the family to their former glory. This is accomplished fairly quickly, leaving Barnabas plenty of time to get to know his new family and marvel over such modern wonders as lava lamps and television.
It’s hard to put your finger on what exactly is wrong with Dark Shadows. It’s certainly not a terrible movie. It looks amazing and it’s ideally cast with amusing and energetic performances from Depp, Green, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Jackie Earle Haley, Chloe Grace Moretz, Jonny Lee Miller, Bella Heathcote and Gully McGrath. There are individual moments and scenes that are a lot of fun.
The problem is these individual moments never mesh into a cohesive whole. The film never settles into a comfortable rhythm. Everything feels like it’s being played a couple of beats too slowly. The screenplay by Seth Grahame-Smith works a little too hard trying to find something for everyone in the large ensemble to do. Subplots are introduced and then resolved within minutes. As a result, the movie is certainly watchable and at times very clever but almost terminally uninvolving.
It sure looks nice on Blu-ray, though. This is a marvelous, film-like transfer that enhances your appreciation of the movie’s design and cinematography. The 5.1 DTS-HD audio is equally impressive, both in scenes of quiet atmosphere and when blasting the hits of the 70s. Bonus features are a bit disappointing, limited mainly to nine featurettes (or, as they’re called here, “Focus Points”, which makes it sound like you’re sitting through a motivational seminar). You can either access these on their own or as a picture-in-picture while the movie’s playing. Roughly half of them are standard-issue EPK fluff but those that deal with the production design, costumes, visual effects or stunts are genuinely interesting. The disc also includes five deleted scenes, none of which are game-changing. And for those of you who just can’t decide how or where you want to watch the movie, the combo pack throws in a DVD and UltraViolet digital copy.
As a fan of the original series, Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, Dark Shadows is definitely a bit of a let-down. The movie has a lot going for it but it should have been much sharper than it is. Instead of an affectionate tribute to the original, they’ve produced an inconsequential movie that evaporates from the memory practically as soon as the credits roll.
- Dr. Adam Jahnke