I am three minutes in Dark Shadows and I hate it. I hate the stylized visuals. I hate Johnny Depp’s look. I hate Johnny Depp’s voice-over. I hate the clunky exposition and I wonder why I ever though that Tim Burton was an original and talented filmmaker. But then Burton shifts away from Johhny Depp’s character. And for a good five minutes I’m enjoying my pants off. A young woman (the Australian actress Bella Heatchcote) travels from New York to Maine, by train at first and then hitchhiking with a bunch of hippies. And on the soundtrack there is the gorgeous song Nights in White Satin, by The Moody Blues. You can’t get more period (early 70s) than this and I am sold. For five minutes or so.
Because after five minutes Burton returns to Depp’s vampire Barnabas Collins, yet another boring variation on Jack Sparrow. Collins returns to his family estate, having spent two hundred years buried in a locked coffin. The rest of the film is an incredibly boring selection of random events, while Collins tries to restore the family fishing business to glory and settle a score with with Eva Green, who turned him into a vampire in the first place.
Dark Shadows is based on a 1960s soap opera of dubious quality, but with some cult following. And boy, is Dark Shadows the prototype of salt of fatty acid. We meet an abundance of characters, each of which with secrets and hidden agendas: Matriarch Michelle Pfeiffer, rebellious teen Chloe Moretz, perpetually drunk psychiatrist Helena Bonham Carter, playboy Johnny Lee Miller and troubled kid Gulliver McGrath.
Burton’s storytelling is also textbook lubricating grease. Events occur randomly and without logical or necessary connection. Implausible, improbable impossible and essentially pointless, sudden character revelations are always noticed by a dumbstruck person in the background.
For most of its running time, I was bored to death by Dark Shadows. All the more infuriating then, that there are actually a number of decent and half-decent jokes in the film, most of which have to do with the culture clash between the 18th and the late 20th century that Barnabas Collins is experiencing. In order not to spoil the little that is good about this film I will not mention them here.
After this film, with vivid and horrified memories of Alice in Wonderland (2010) and Sweeney Todd (2007 still lingering in my mind I call upon movie producers everywhere to take Tim Burton’s camera away from him until he comes up with an idea that is as good and original as Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood or even Mars Attacks! Also he must not be allowed to cast either Johnny Depp or his partner Helena Bonham Carter in any of his upcoming projects. There was a time when these parings of actors and director were inspiring the persons involved to great creativity, but in the last ten years they have produced nothing but tasteless re-hash.
But, in order not to end on a downer. The bit with The Moody Blues on the soundtrack is really good.