Dark Shadows, 2012, USA
Dark Shadows is a film that doesn’t know what it wants to me. Is it a campy comedy? Or is it a horror/dramatic film? It mixes elements of both, but not smoothly, and, for the most part, not successfully.
Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) is a member of the Collins family, founders of a fishing port. He’s desperately in love with Josette (Bella Heathcote), much to the chagrin of Angelique (Eva Green), who is in love with him. Angelique turns Barnabas into a vampire and buries him, and spends the next 200 years getting revenge on his family. When Barnabas is finally freed from the coffin he must adjust to life in 1970s Maine.
The film is at its best when Barnabas and Angelique are sparring on-screen. Both Depp and Green were charismatic and tons of fun to watch. Depp was also quite good at showing us Barnabas’ culture shock and adjustment to life in the 1970s. Unfortunately, a lot of the cast simply did not have a lot to do. Helena Bonham Carter has an amusing role, but isn’t given nearly enough to do, a fate that Chloë Grace Moretz also falls victim to. Another issue is that Heathcote, who portrays both Josette and Victoria; Barnabas’ 1970s love interest is terribly flat. Neither character is even remotely interesting, and Heathcote fails to show any real emotion. She was awful, and I never felt, for one second, that Barnabas had any reason to fall in love with either woman. Frankly, him and Angelique would have been a far more interesting pair.
Director Tim Burton did a great job capturing the gothic and somewhat timeless setting of Collinsport (which makes sense, as it’s one of his strengths). Unfortunately, he’s less successful at developing a consistent tone for the film. Dark Shadows dances all over the place, and I wish it had embraced the campy comedy tone throughout. I loved the campy moments, but when it delved more into the horror and the drama, I was bored. I did find that the chemistry between Depp and Green made parts of this film worth watching, though.
You can watch Dark Shadows on Netflix.