Burton jumps on the vampire trend,
Bringing his wife and good friend,
The big cast underused,
Though Depp’s lines amused,
OK if it weren’t for the end.
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It’s official, Tim Burton is the Michael Bay of twisted fantasy. Where Bay adds slow motion action and explosions at every turn, it seems Burton will throw in weird characters and spooky special effects, even if they’re not needed.
The first three quarters of Dark Shadows is easy to watch and fairly funny at times, but Burton turns the final act into a weird mess that feels rushed and completely over-the-top.
As with Alice in Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Dark Shadows is a remake of something that already existed (a television series from the 1960s) and once again, Burton has added his own visual styling and recast both Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter.
Depp plays Barnabas Collins, whose parents established a successful fishing business and built the town of Collinsport in the 1700s. But when Barnabas breaks the heart of a witch (Eva Green), she kills his fiancé and turns him into a vampire. The townsfolk label him a monster, capture him and lock him away in a coffin where he lays for almost two centuries. When he is finally released, the year is 1972 and Barnabas sets out to find childhood home and restore the family business to its former glory.
The funniest part about Dark Shadows is watching Barnabas adapt to the 1970s. It’s made funnier by Depp’s performance because he perfects the old-English tongue.
His futuristic family are made up of an impressive cast, including Michelle Pfeiffer as the controlling mother, Jonny Lee Miller as her dodgy brother, Chloë Moretz as the troubled, teenage daughter and Australia’s Gulliver McGrath as the weirdo son.
Those aside, the best supporting characters are the family helpers, made up of Bonham Carter as the child psychologist, Jackie Earle Haley as the groundskeeper and Ray Shirley as the oblivious maid, Mrs. Johnson. I especially enjoyed Bonham Carter as the alcoholic doctor, but that’s mostly because she echoed an aged version of Marla Singer from Fight Club.
Eva Green was probably the most annoying. Sure, she looked incredible, but it felt she was just trying to play Goldie Hawn from Death Becomes Her, including a forced American accent. They should have just cast an American in the role – because considering how much makeup they caked on, any fit blonde would have sufficed.
The original television series was basically a supernatural soap opera, which had new twists and character developments with each episode. This premise does not successfully transfer to a single feature and it feels like Burton crammed big “shock twist” moments into single scenes (like the whole werewolf thing for instance).
The only other point worth discussing is the soundtrack. Thanks to the ‘70s setting, it’s filled with the likes of Iggy Pop, The Carpenters, Barry White, T. Rex and even Alice Cooper performs his own songs in a cameo (which sounds cooler than it plays out).
It’s unfortunate, because if it wasn’t for the horrible ending I would probably recommend this – as there are lots of laughs and the ‘70s references are fun. But the last half an hour is just complete nonsense, and the special effects aren’t impressive enough to justify the lack of reason behind them.
Luckily there are still a million more things for Burton to remake, so I’m sure he’ll just keep trying. My guess: The Addams Family.
Dark Shadows is in cinemas now.