Dark Shadows Review
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Tim Burton and Johnny Depp go together like peanut butter and jelly…like pizza and beer…like warm cookies and cold milk. Sure, you can enjoy these things on their own, but they just work so well together. And whenever the director and star come together, they end up producing something that’s entirely original—even when it falls a bit flat.

Their eighth collaboration, Dark Shadows, is a kind of gothic comedy—the story of wealthy fisheries heir Barnabas Collins (Depp), whose prominent family is cursed by the scorned, lovesick witch Angelique (Eva Green). After killing his parents and the woman he loves, Angelique turns Barnabas into a vampire, sentencing him to an eternity of suffering.

When his identity is revealed (by Angelique, of course), Barnabas is captured and imprisoned underground, only to be freed 200 years later—in 1972. Upon returning to his family’s estate, he finds the remaining members of the Collins family in desperate need of his help. But Angelique, the family’s biggest rival, is determined either to stop Barnabas—or to have him all to herself.

  
 
Burton and Depp are known for their quirky films—dark and eerie tales that are often infused with a twisted sense of humor. And Dark Shadows definitely has both horror and humor—from the carnage caused by a blood-thirsty vampire to the wacky day-to-day experiences of a centuries-old vampire trying to adjust to life in the ‘70s.

Really, though, it’s hard to say whether Dark Shadows is too campy or not campy enough. Without the occasional silly references to things like ‘70s music and macramé, the film would have been more eerie and haunting. There’s simply too much goofing around to take any of it seriously. Considering it’s Burton and Depp, though, that’s really no surprise. You’re not supposed to take is seriously.

At the same time, though, there aren’t enough references and gags and other silliness to make it truly funny. Instead, it simply feels uneven—sometimes silly, sometimes not. The imbalance is often awkward—and even a little off-putting.

The cast, too, seems confused about the kind of movie they’re supposed to be in. It’s no big surprise that Depp is totally over-the-top as the 18th century vampire stuck in the ‘70s. It’s the kind of role that he absolutely relishes. But Michelle Pfeiffer, on the other hand, while giving a strong performance as the proud Collins family matriarch, plays it straight—so much so that she seems to be in a completely different movie. Even Helena Bonham Carter, who’s often the Queen of Crazy (in the very best of ways) in husband Burton’s films, tones down her performance as the Collins family’s live-in shrink to disappointingly (and shockingly) bland levels.

Dark Shadows is definitely an imaginative romp by the fun-loving duo. It’s dark and bizarre and distinctly Burton. Still, it’s far from the director’s (or the actor’s) best work. And instead of a dark and quirky kind of Sweeney Todd in Wonderland, it’s an amusing but forgettable collaboration.


Blu-ray Review:
At first glance, it doesn’t look like the Dark Shadows Blu-ray release is an especially feature-filled one. There are, however, a handful of deleted scenes—as well as the Maximum Movie Mode, which allows viewers to watch the movie with breaks for behind-the-scenes focus points. Or, if you don’t want to interrupt your viewing of the movie, you can also choose to watch the nine focus points separately.

The focus points cover a little bit of everything. There are focus points discussing the cast and Depp’s vision for his character. There are focus points on the ‘70s styling, the sets, and the effects. There are even focus points on the film’s various monsters—and on Alice Cooper’s cameo.

The focus points aren’t long or remarkably in-depth, but they do offer a brief look inside the making of Dark Shadows. So if watching Burton and Depp’s latest collaboration leaves you thirsty for more, be sure to take some time to skim through some of the extras.

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