Most helpful critical review
on February 23, 2014
Tim Burton is a very hit-or-miss director -- when he's good, he's very very good. And when he's bad... "Planet of the Apes."
And for many years, he and favorite star Johnny Depp wanted to make an adaptation of the classic supernatural soap "Dark Shadows." Except, you know, getting virtually every aspect of the story wrong -- instead of a tale of vampiric tragedy and suspense, we get an awful sitcom that tries to get all its humor from Barnabas Collins being a "man out of time."
About two hundred years ago, the witch Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green) took revenge on her former lover Barnabas Collins (Depp) after he jilted her. She killed his family, made his fiancee commit suicide, turned him into a vampire, and got him buried for two hundred years.
When Barnabas is accidentally dug up, it's the 1970s. After snacking on some road workers, he heads straight back to the old family manor. The Collins family -- led by the dour matriarch Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer) -- has seen its fortunes decline over the centuries, and Barnabas is determined to restore them. He also immediately falls for Victoria (Bella Heathcote), who is an exact doppelganger for his dead fiancee.
However, it turns out that Angelique is still kicking around because... well, she's a witch, so apparently that makes her immortal. She's still carrying a torch for Barnabas. And she's been responsible for the family "curse." And, well, she's opened a rival fish cannery that is threatening the old family biz. When Barnabas turns her down again, she's out for revenge...
If you've seen even some of Tim Burton's other movies, then you know pretty much what to expect from "Dark Shadows." Burton is just regurgitating the same things he always does -- it stars Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter, there's pancake makeup with sunken raccoon eyes, a Skellington scarecrow, gothic houses with lots of sharp angles, wild hair, etc.
Burton's style is not the problem, though... but the fact that he turned a story of tragedy and revenge into a COMEDY is. And even as a comedy, it fails.
Instead we get endless gags relying on Barnabas' culture shock (oh ha ha, he's confused by the TV), and how he's so obviously a vampire but the Collins clan never notices. And once the backstory is out of the way, Burton seems to lose interest in the plot -- he simply flings around a dozen random plot threads, culminating in a confusing deus-ex-machina climax with random ghosts and werewolves popping up to fight Angelique.
There's also an ugly misogynistic tone to the movie -- every woman is either a vengeful scorned harpy who can't move on, a vain age-obsessed skank or a blank-faced nonentity like Victoria.
Johnny Depp is admittedly doing what he can here, but the character of Barnabas is just embarrassing -- he comes across as a blithering idiot and a huge cad. Depp is charming, but not charming enough. Heathcote has the charisma and acting ability of a log, and most of the other actors are wasted (Pfeiffer, Green, Chloë Grace Moretz, Jonny Lee Miller).
It boggles the imagination that "Dark Shadows" was made by actual fans of the original TV show, because frankly it's hard to imagine a worse adaptation being made by people who hated it. There may be shadows, but they're not dark. They're just beige.