‘Dark Shadows’ Will Make You Cringe… in All the Wrong Ways
This past Mother’s Day I saw Tim Burton’s latest re-imagining, Dark Shadows, at the request of my Depp-loving mama. Who could deny their mom that sweet Kentucky-born boy’s jaw line and high cheekbones? No one… if they know what’s good for them.
Since the original TV series, also titled Dark Shadows, aired in 1966 I’d only seen a few episodes before seeing this movie. I was in high school and remember not being overly impressed with the old series, which is weird because it is in some ways the precursor to shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and True Blood; a soap opera with monsters.
The new feature film wastes no time in re-telling the entire back story of the show in a short amount of time, getting us up to speed. The downside to this “cliff notes” version is that the brief introduction doesn’t leave much time for us to actually feel for the protagonist’s loss. If anything, Barnabus comes across as kind of a tactless jerk underneath all the well-mannered, high-class etiquette. It’s hard to feel for Barnabus; a rich boy who breaks the heart of girl (albeit she’s a crazy witch).
It was refreshing that they did’t make this movie in 3D, unlike so many films coming out lately. So far, the only movie that has made any sense to be in 3D concept-wise was Hugo (in my opinion, but we’ll save that for another review). A nice detail in Dark Shadows that doesn’t go unnoticed, however, was Barnabus’ old-style umbrella, which is a nod to the American illustrator and purveyor of the macabre, Edward Gorey (see artwork below).
Burton seriously needs to debut some new lead role talent, though. Everyone loves Johnny Depp, we get it, but come on! With that complaint aside the film does take a rather dry soap opera and re-imagines it into a relatively campy (though entertaining), retro-chic style comedy. Taking serious dramas and remaking them into comedies seems to be a trend lately and I’m not sure if that is a good or bad thing. However, there were a few jokes and one-liners in Dark Shadows that did make me cringe (from embarrassment, not fear).
Regardless of Burton’s impeccable cinematography, trite and true casting, soundtrack (again Danny Elfman), costumes, and set design, it seemed the writing and character development was lacking. It almost feels as if Burton is afraid of taking risks and won’t go outside of his comfort zone, which leaves me to wonder if the “Tim Burton veneer” we once loved isn’t quite enough anymore.