His clothes are blacker than the blackest cloth and his face is indeed whiter than the snows of Hoth, but Tim Burton, happy or not, is one ubiquitous goth. By the end of 2012 the only man to give Russell Brand cause for concern in the annual Twatty Hair Awards will have a credit in no less than four big screen releases. If just one of these movies manages to be anywhere near as deathly dull and tedious as Dark Shadows is, Mr. Burton will have achieved a formidable task.
Leaving Liverpool for Maine, the Collins family set up a fishing town with their vast wealth. Their son Barnabas diddles the help, in the form of Angelique Bouchard, and is cursed for eternity when he refuses to fall in love with her. After Angelique kills his parents and throws his girlfriend off a cliff, Barnabas attempts suicide before discovering the worst part of the curse; He is now a vampire. Buried undead for two hundred years, Barnabas awakes in the 1970’s and reunites with his kin. Although we’re pretty sure he was an only child and his parents are dead so we’re not sure how the modern day family members are connected to Barnabas in any way shape or form. Oh look it’s Alice Cooper!
On the back of Alice In Wonderland clawing a staggering Billion dollars at the box office, a Disney Executive declared that when it comes to making tentpole releases the old adage that story is everything was “bullshit”. He even went on to say that Disney, Burton and Depp’s latest was an example of a film that didn’t have “a very good story” and still made a MadHatload of cash. While you can’t fault the man for honesty, anybody that loves movies, really loves movies, has to hope that the failure of Dark Shadows proves him completely, unequivocally wrong. Because away from the fine performances, the flamboyant sets and the enjoyable soundtrack, Dark Shadows is as hollow as this simile.
An enormous amount of this fault lies at the feet of the screenwriter. On paper, Seth Grahame-Smith, the author behind comedic revisionist fare like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, would appear a fine choice to tell the tale of a mythical man’s transformation to the modern day in a postmodern way. Yet everything about Dark Shadows infers he should have stuck to novels. We could forgive the fact that each joke is duller than the wrong end of a stake if the writer opted to include anything resembling a plot or a ticking clock or anything to prevent the viewer drifting to sleep for a century or two.
That a director with as much pedigree as Burton can’t recognise in the pages of the script that his film is going nowhere at speeds of single digit miles per hour is a testament to the hero worship surrounding him and Depp. They got away with the lack of any semblance of a story during Alice In Wonderland (at least financially anyway) but here, without the colourful exoticism of Lewis Carroll’s world, everything falls down flat.
If there is a single shining light to Dark Shadows it’s cast by the principals of Johnny Depp and Eva Green. The formers latest attempt to decrease his popularity isn’t quite as off-putting as the trailer might suggest. Once the film moves onto the lesser characters you’ll be pining for Depp to return and bring with him the one-time Bond Girl. The only, and by the end we do mean only, thing that might drag your eyes back to the screen after a lengthy fixation on the cinema floor is Eva’s vampy portrayal of sexy witch Angelique Bouchard.
The one legacy of the film might be that Burton picks up another thespian to add to his Rolodex of a performing family. Alongside wife Helena, life-partner Depp, Granddad Lee and Aunty Michelle, sexy cousin Eva would be a wonderful addition. On the basis of Dark Shadows she should think carefully before signing the adoption papers.
Even hardcore Burton apologists will have a difficult time defending Dark Shadows. Unsure as to what exactly it is – even subjectively it falls short on the gag quota to define it as comedy and lacks any genuine thrills to label itself horror – it’s biggest crime is that, aside from Eva Green’s character, nobody is compelled to do anything. If any reader can explain the narrative drive in under 25 words or less we’ll send you some free eyeliner.