Movie review: Not the Dark Shadows of my youth, but entertaining just the same

May 14, 2012 – Fans who consider themselves purists may not appreciate Tim Burton’s long-awaited adaptation of the 1960s gothic soap opera”Dark Shadows”, but if they look at the film on its own, as another Johnny Depp/Tim Burton collaboration, and not as a remake of the popular series, they’ll find some clever moments.

I went back and forth about whether I should see “Dark Shadows” or not. I don’t consider myself a complete purist, but was a major fan and raced home from grade school every day to watch it. It was the previews that originally turned me off and gave the impression that Burton made a mockery of it.

My internal battle didn’t last long; I saw “Dark Shadows” on its opening weekend, and I’m glad I did. It’s certainly not the “Dark Shadows” I remember, although Burton did stay true to the original storyline.

In my mind there will only be one Barnabas Collins, the first vampire we met with a conscience and a heart, who really wasn’t monster like at all, and paved the way for all of the softer vampires that are so popular today. Canadian Actor Jonathan Frid who recently passed away at age 87 played him miraculously. Frid may have actually taken stereotype 360 degrees with this role; you can’t imagine anyone else playing the role, and you can’t imagine him playing any other role either. To my knowledge he really didn’t act again once “Dark Shadows” went off air in 1972.

That being said, Johnny Depp, who played an awfully disturbing Willy Wonka for another Burton remake did a fine job as Barnabas Collins. He was charming just like the original, and played the part with an appealing comic twist. The rest of the cast is also suited to their roles, with Michelle Pfeiffer as the matriarch Elizabeth Collins, and the obligatory “Helena Bonham Carter in a Tim Burton movie role” that has her playing Dr. Julia Hoffman, the family live-in psychiatrist, which doesn’t seem odd considering the Collins family deals with vampires, ghosts, werewolves, witches and two hundred year old curses on a daily basis.

But it was French actress Eva Green’s portrayal of Angelique Bouchard that stole the show. Green fine tuned her acting chops on more sophisticated roles, such as Merlin’s nemesis Morgan LeFay in Camelot, which crushed me with its cancellation last year, but she lit up the screen in every scene she appeared in and held her own in a semi-comic role, and it was great to see her again. She plays evil incredibly well.
There are also four original cast members that make cameo appearances in the movie, in the party scene to be exact, but if you blink too quickly you’ll miss them.

While the movie is entertaining, it certainly had its flaws. One of the biggest was Tim Burton’s apparent confusion on whether the vibe should be funny or dark and gothic. It seems he couldn’t make up his mind and went with both, which usually plays well in a Burton film. However, while I did enjoy the more humorous moments, as well as the scary dark scenes, it got a little tiresome constantly going back and forth. It was too much.

Some may argue that the original series did the same, but as a kid I kid, I didn’t understand that “Dark Shadows” was campy. I didn’t even know what that meant. I only knew it was the scariest show I’d ever seen. Burton’s adaptation is also very campy, but even the darker scenes come no where as close to being frightening as the original.

A better way to describe the movie may be to say that it is far out or outta sight, as the era – the early 1970s and its free loving hippie lava lamp ways – play out like a character.

So, all of you purists out there, stay cool. See this adaptation for what it is – a downright groovy time.

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2 thoughts on “Movie review: Not the Dark Shadows of my youth, but entertaining just the same

    • I’ve read both good and bad but don’t always agree so I don’t pay attention. I enjoyed it and I think it’s the kind of movie I’d like better the second time around… but you’re right … I’ll wait for the DVD.

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