Sunday, May 13, 2012

Movie Review: "Dark Shadows" (2012) (SPOILERS)

Saw Dark Shadowsyesterday afternoon with my friends Nick and Candice.  Candice used to watch the original TV series with her mother and sister and, based on the previews, was concerned it would be a goofy parody rather than a proper adaptation.  Sufficient to say, that was not a problem. Here's my review...

The Good

*They did play up the "man out of time" parts of the story that my reading about the TV series has led me to think wasn't touched on earlier.  If a man has been out of circulation for 200 years, he's going to find the modern world very strange.  Although that led to many of the comedic moments, it was not played to the point the film was a vampire version of the first Austin Powers movie.

*Related to the first point, I liked Barnabas's dialect.  His vocabulary is certainly richer than any modern person's, and I can certainly appreciate that.  It's also rather amusing.

*Barnabas bemoaning his condition and its homicidal consequences while banging his head into a piano was a particularly amusing scene.

*The 1970s setting is done consistently.  When Victoria Winters arrives in Collinsport and later when Barnabas is freed from his coffin, the architecture, the dress, the films playing in the theaters, etc. are all very disco-era.  The movie Deliverance is playing in the theaters, for example.

On a darker note, this applies to the social norms are as well--we later see that Victoria's parents institutionalized her when they saw her talking to a ghost (that they could not see).  "Institutionalized" in this context means having orderlies bundle her screaming into an ambulance and take her to a prison-like sanitarium where the staff "treated" her with electroshock therapy and kept her locked up in the rubber room the rest of the time, never mind that she isn't violent.  She eventually escapes bedsheets-out-the-window style the way people apparently escape from jail.  Barnabas was rightly PO'd at this and I was expecting him to go kill her parents.

*Barnabas was well-characterized.  He clearly internalized his father's dictum that family is the only true wealth and sets about restoring the family fortunes as soon as he is aware the Collins family business is on the verge of ruin.  In general, he seems to be the rather honorable sort.  However, he is still a murderous vampire and that shows.

The Bad

*Barnabas waxes poetic about how horrible his condition is and laments about having killed innocent people, but he doesn't try to take any steps to avoid the whole "kill people" thing in the modern day.  His attacking the construction workers like he did might be excusable due to his mental state--he has been imprisoned for 200 years and is, as he said, "very thirsty," but the later attack on the hippies was completely gratuitous.  He could have used the family's wealth to buy his own blood bank or fed on people non-lethally and then hypnotized them to forget, but it doesn't seem that the thought even occurred to him.

*Barnabas said people tried to stone him to death and it didn't work, but it doesn't seem like much happens between his transformation into a vampire and Angelique goading the villagers into burying him alive in a chained coffin.  Barnabas does make a reference to having killed innocent people.  There could have been a montage of him attacking and killing people and various failed efforts to kill him, culminating in him being buried alive.  That might extend the opening sequence a bit much though.

*There's a scene where Victoria is talking to Barnabas and she says that David idolizes him.  We don't ever see that, although given how useless his father Roger is, that's no surprise.  There should be some more scenes where David and Barnabas interact.

Given how introverted and weird David is (claiming to see his mother's ghost and all) and the comment someone makes about the town not liking them, perhaps the kids of some of Angelique's employees are picking on him and Barnabas teaches him some 18th Century Liverpool street-fighting techniques when Roger can't be bothered to do anything about it?  Actually seeing the kid-fights would be distracting, but maybe the mother can get a note from school saying David is getting picked on, Barnabas says he has something to show David, and then another note reports that David put the hurt on one of the mean kids.

Alternatively, maybe Roger ignores David and Barnabas ends up having to read to him or comfort him during a nightmare.  When Barnabas later demands Roger either act like the father David deserves or leave, he could add "like I've been doing."

*The revelation at the climax that Carolyn is a werewolf is extremely random, especially when Angelique claimed she had a werewolf bite Carolyn in her cradle.  If Carolyn has been a werewolf since she was a baby, surely someone would have noticed by now.  Her mother could have come to check on her when she's sleeping and spotted the transformation, or Carolyn could be frightened by the change and seek her mother out.  Plus it was really too late to have the revelation that werewolves exist--that there are witches, ghosts, and vampires is revealed within the first few minutes of the film.

*At the end of the film, when Barnabas is forced to turn Victoria into a vampire to save her life, Victoria later refers to herself as "Josette."  Barnabas is fixated on her because she resembles his lost love, but the fact we see Josette's ghost as a separate entity from Victoria would augur against her being a straight reincarnation.  The only foreshadowing we get for this is that Victoria believes in ghosts and other supernatural things, but that better foreshadows the reveal that she sees dead people, not that she's a reincarnation of anyone.

The Verdict

Not a bad movie by any means, but could use some work.  7.5 out of 10.


  1. Good review. It has some real moments that made me laugh and had me enjoyed, but Burton starts to lose himself by the end, therefore, he lost me. Could have been so much better and the only reason it is as good as it is, is because of Depp’s insane performance. Just could have been so much better and less lazy with its approach.

  2. One of Burtons best movies in a while, but he has a ways to go to get back to making classics.

  3. I agree with the "lazy" part. Some of the stuff I complained about could fall under TVTropes' definition of "Ass-Pull."