‘Dark Shadows’ has a certain bite to it

Johnny Depp as Barn­a­bas Collins


Between the Mad Hat­ter, Jack Spar­row, Willy Wonka and Sweeney Todd, Johnny Depp is the king of creepy char­ac­ters.

Dark Shad­ows re­unites Depp with his fre­quent dir­ect­or col­lab­or­at­or, Tim Bur­ton, for an­oth­er wacky movie that’s (like so many of the oth­ers) heavy on the visu­als, but light on the story.

Barn­a­bas Collins is Depp’s latest oddball char­ac­ter, and he’s been ripped straight from the small screen. I’d nev­er heard of, let alone seen, the goth­ic soap op­era that ran on ABC from 1966 to ’71 be­fore the movie, so I have no way to judge wheth­er the movie stayed true to the TV show. I can only judge on its en­ter­tain­ment value as a stand-alone movie.

All of the funny mo­ments are in the com­mer­cials, and by the end, it all felt kind of ri­dicu­lous. What is most an­noy­ing about Dark Shad­ows is its con­fus­ing tone. Is it a comed­ic spoof? A hor­ror movie? A goth­ic thrill­er? A re­tell­ing or an homage? It’s not clearly defined and in­stead is a little bit of them all.

I thor­oughly en­joyed the retro mu­sic of Dark Shad­ows. Curtis May­field’s Su­per Fly, The Moody Blues’ Nights in White Sat­in and The Car­penters’ Top of the World are among some of the groovy tunes. Alice Cooper even makes an ex­ten­ded cameo to sing a couple songs. I also en­joyed the 18th cen­tury goth­ic man­sion jux­ta­posed by the bell bot­toms and lava lamps of the 1970s.

If I had a check­list of the parts that make up Dark Shad­ows, it would look something like this: groovy mu­sic, check; ad­equate goth­ic visu­als, cine­ma­to­graphy and makeup, check; ap­peal­ing story, not really. More like mangled story. For fans of the TV series, there was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo from four of the stars.

If any­thing, Dark Shad­ows proves there is noth­ing like a wo­man scorned. After be­ing bur­ied alive for nearly two cen­tur­ies, Barn­a­bas arises (after be­ing in­ad­vert­ently freed) smack dab in the middle of 1972. He ini­tially winds up alive un­der­ground after break­ing the heart of An­gelique Bouchard (Eva Green). That’s be­cause An­gelique is not just a typ­ic­al wo­man out for re­venge; she’s an hon­est to good­ness witch, who wants Barn­a­bas to suf­fer etern­ally.

Barn­a­bas heads straight back to the place he called home, Collinswood Man­or (the Maine es­tate he settled with his fam­ily in 1750 after they left Eng­land). The 1972 ver­sion of Collinswood is not ex­actly how Barn­a­bas re­mem­bers it.

Heav­ily in dis­repair, the man­sion is now in­hab­ited by fam­ily mat­ri­arch Eliza­beth Collins Stod­dard (Michelle Pfeif­fer, it’s a shame she doesn’t have a big­ger role), Eliza­beth’s broth­er, Ro­ger Collins (Jonny Lee Miller); her re­bel­li­ous teen­age daugh­ter Car­o­lyn (Chloe Grace Moretz); and Ro­ger’s son Dav­id (Gully Mc­Grath). Oth­er res­id­ents in­clude the care­taker Wil­lie Loomis (Jack­ie Earle Haley); a live-in psy­chi­at­rist, Dr. Ju­lia Hoff­man (Helena Bon­ham Carter); and a new nanny, Vic­tor­ia Win­ters (Bella Heath­cote), who just hap­pens to mys­ter­i­ously re­sembles Barn­a­bas’ one true love, Josette.

Mean­while in town, Barn­a­bas comes in con­tact with a wo­man named Angie who is set on des­troy­ing the Collins’ clan once and for all.

I’ve nev­er been a huge vam­pire movie fan my­self, and I won­der if vam­pire movies are fall­ing out of fa­vor. The end­ing leaves open the pos­sib­il­ity of a se­quel, but I doubt there will be one if the re­sponse (or lack there­of) from my screen­ing was any in­dic­a­tion as to fan re­ac­tion. ••

Movie Grade: B-

You can reach at shorbrook@bsmphilly.com.

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