Dark Shadows or Who Stole My Fangs?


In Tim Burton's Dark Shadows, a white-faced, put-upon vampire, Barnabus Collins (Johnny Depp), is unwittingly released into the modern world of 1972 after having been encased in a coffin for nearly two centuries. Immediately, the very thirsty bloodsucker sips the blood of the dozen construction workers who had unwittingly let him loose.

Refreshed, Collins uncomprehendingly walks through the town named for his family, amazed at the sights of graveled roads, automobiles, traffic lights, bulldozers, and folks eating ice cream sundaes in diners. Unsettled, he heads for his once-glamorous homestead, Collinwood Manor, to discover if any of his bloodline is still alive. "Family is the only real wealth," he notes.

Well, yessiree!  By golly, the Collins clan has survived, although only by the skin of their teeth. There's the steely family matriarch (Michelle Pfeiffer), her widowed, negligible brother Roger (Jonny Lee Miller) , her rebellious teen daughter Carolyn (Chloe Grace Moretz), and Roger's depressed son David (Gully McGrath). Also on hand is a dysfunctional shrink, Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter), and nearby a horny witch, Angelique (Eva Green), who has had the hots for Barnabus since the 1700s. When he spurned her for another, Angie, as she's now called, turned him into a bloodsucker and placed a spell on his fiancée so she walked off a cliff.

Well, can Barnabus regain the family fortune and restart the family's fisheries? Also, will he be able to earn the love of Josette DuPress (Bella Heathcote), the family's governess who's the spitting image of his old love? And what about Angie? Will she allow Barnabus to cold-shoulder her one more time? More important, will you give a rat's ass?  That depends on how much you value the ass.

This bloated adaptation of the ancient TV series is neither funny enough nor whimsical enough to deserve much of your attention. Burton, who has always been a visual director, once again lets the story play second fiddle to his amazing phantasmagoric visions, which here aren't that amazing nor that phantasmagoric.  Much of the problem lies in the film's anemic screenplay by novelist Seth Grahame-Smith (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies). The whole enterprise lacks an inner logic, and its funniest few lines have already been revealed in the trailers.

It's basically a children's film in sensibility, though some parents might object to having the kiddies exposed to Barnabus receiving oral sex from Dr. Hoffman. If that weren't enough, there's his frantic, poorly edited, although lengthy, copulation scene with Angie that wrecks a whole lot of furniture.

Other Burton offerings always supplied something viewers could marvel over (e.g. Edward Scissorhands; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). Here you have a lame excuse to purchase popcorn, a product more than a creation. You'll feel enervated by the lackluster technique and depressed by how the film dulls your senses. Basically a cornucopia of ineptness, Dark Shadows should have been relegated to where the sun don't shine. - Brandon Judell

brandon.jpgMr. Judell is currently teaching "Queer Theater" and "Theater of the Sixties" at The City College of New York and is Coordinator of The Simon H. Rifkind Center. He has written on film for The Village Voice, indieWire.com, The New York Daily News, Soho Style, and The Advocate, and is anthologized in Cynthia Fuchs's Spike Lee Interviews (University Press of Mississippi) and John Preston's A Member of the Family (Dutton).

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