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Movie Review: Dark Shadows

May 11, 2012

Dark Shadows – A Warner Bros. Pictures’ Release

Release Date: May 11th, 2012

Rated 14A for graphic violence and substance abuse

Running time: 113 minutes

Tim Burton (dir.)

Seth Grahame-Smith (screenplay and story)

John August (story)

Based on the television series created by Dan Curtis

Danny Elfman (music)

Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins

Michelle Pfeiffer as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard

Helena Bonham Carter as Dr. Julia Hoffman

Eva Green as Angelique Bouchard

Jackie Earle Haley as Willie Loomis

Jonny Lee Miller as Roger Collins

Bella Heathcote as Victoria Winters/Josette DuPres

Chloë Grace Moretz as Carolyn Stoddard

Gulliver McGrath as David Collins

Ray Shirley as Mrs. Johnson

©Warner Bros. Pictures.  All Rights Reserved.

Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) in Dark Shadows.

Our reviews below:


Dark Shadows Review By John C.

*** (out of 4)

As a fan of director Tim Burton and actor Johnny Depp, I enjoyed a lot of the signature weirdness on display in Dark Shadows, their homage to the gothic soap opera from the 1960s.  Although this eighth collaboration between them isn’t their best work, the film offers enough dark humour and horror to please fans, while providing an enjoyable early summer diversion for regular audiences.

Cursed by jealous witch Angelique (Eva Green), vampire Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) awakens from the grave after two centuries to find himself in the psychedelic world of 1972, before stumbling upon his beloved old mansion in the quiet fishing village of Collinsport, Maine.  Determined to stay true to his family, he finds himself living with his distant relatives Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer) and her brother Roger (Jonny Lee Miller), as well as his son David (Gulliver McGrath) and her daughter Carolyn (Chloe Grace Moretz).  Barnabas falls in love with their governess Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcote), but Angelique is back with a vengeance and determined to steal his heart.

After the seven excellent movies Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Sleepy Hollow, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride, Sweeney Todd and Alice in Wonderland, Dark Shadows is the eighth film between Johnny Depp and Tim Burton.  Although not as polished as their previous films, it’s still an easily entertaining summer blockbuster.  The cinematography is striking as always, with the signature grey tones complimenting the visually imaginative set designs.  Although the film does meander a bit, the switches in tone between humour and horror are generally navigated quite nicely.  The humour comes naturally from the culture clash of Barnabas Collins adapting to life in the ’70s, and the horror elements provide some of the film’s most atmospheric moments.

Some will dislike the tonal shifts and sometimes relaxed pace, but the excellent soundtrack and atmospheric visuals provide enough delights on their own.  Although admittedly not the strongest collaboration between Johnny Depp and Tim Burton, Dark Shadows still has enough going for it to make this an enjoyable film for fans of the actor and director, while providing an entertaining summer diversion for everyone else.


Dark Shadows Review by Erin V.  

*** (out of 4)

Based on the television series from the 1960s, Dark Shadows stars Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins, who in 1772 was turned into a vampire by a jealous witch.  Now, in 1972, he is inadvertently freed from the coffin that kept him chained for nearly two centuries.  The first thing he does is return to his beloved Collinwood mansion, where he finds the remaining Collins descendants – Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer), her daughter Carolyn (Chlöe Grace Moretz), her brother Roger (Jonny Lee Miller) and his son David (Gulliver McGrath) – now live.

Moving back into Collinwood himself, Barnabas tries to help the current Collins’ to get the family business back on track, but there are secrets and forces that threaten to destroy them, and always believing that family comes first, he must try to put an end to the evil that has cursed their family once and for all.

This film very much has a Tim Burton/Johnny Depp feel.  While quite dark at times, there is a considerable amount of humour here, but it feels very natural as it comes from the culture clash of someone from the 1700s all of a sudden in the 20th century.  The set design and use of colour saturation is very Tim Burton-ish and helps to really set the tone to this often strange tale.  It might not be up there with their best collaborations, but Dark Shadows will definitely be fun for fans of both Depp and Burton, and is well made and entertaining.


Dark Shadows Review by Nicole

*** (out of 4)

Based on a gothic soap opera that aired in the mid 1960s and early ’70s, Dark Shadows tells a darkly entertaining story of a vampire and his quirky goth descendants.  Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) was an ordinary man in the 18th century, until he fell in love.  A witch named Angelique (Eva Green) who has always had her eye on Barnabas, jealously kills his parents and human girlfriend, turning him into a vampire.  Buried undead for 200 years, he wakes up in 1972.  After snacking on some construction workers, Barnabas returns to his old home only to find he has four descendants living there, as well as a quirky psychiatrist (Helena Bonham Carter) and pretty governess Victoria (Bella Heathcote).

His eccentric family helps him settle into his new life in the 1970s, but they must keep his identity a secret.  Meanwhile, they have their own issues.  Homeowner Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer) is not only understandably wary of Barnabas, but she is also taking care of her moody teen daughter Carolyn (Chloe Grace Moretz), who has her own secret.  Carolyn’s cousin David (Gulliver McGrath) is dealing with the mysterious death of his mother, and his gift of seeing ghosts is being misinterpreted as a mental problem.  His dad Roger (Jonny Lee Miller) is dealing with the loss by becoming distant.  Things start to get crazy when Angelique returns.  Now Barnabas must try to protect the Collins from her wrath.

Dark Shadows has everything you want from a horror classic.  It is scary, but not overly, capturing the gothic Halloween-like quirkiness of director Tim Burton’s other films.  Johnny Depp is perfect as Barnabas, and the rest of the cast is great too.  There is also a lot of comedy in Dark Shadows, with great interactions between characters and well written lines.  The special effects are both cheesy and cool, and Angelique’s transformation near the end is particularly fascinating.

The film has just the right balance between dark and light.  Suitable for teens and up, Dark Shadows is an entertaining funhouse ride into the summer blockbuster season.


Dark Shadows Review by Maureen

*** (out of 4)

The tale of Dark Shadows begins in 1760 Liverpool, England with a young boy and his wealthy parents setting sail for America to start a new life.  The Collins family settles in Maine building Collinwood Manor and a successful fish cannery.  All is well until the young adult Barnabas (Johnny Depp) has a tryst with one of the housemaids, Angelique (Eva Green).  When she is tossed aside for a more suitable love interest, Angelique unleashes her powers as a witch and not only kills Barnabas’ love, but turns him into a vampire locked away in a coffin until some two hundred years later when a group of unlucky construction workers discover the secret.

Finally free, Barnabas faces a new challenge trying to figure out what the heck is going on in this odd 1970s world.  He heads back to the one place he knows, Collinwood Manor.  There he meets his distant relatives living in the manor and vows to help them restore the Collins name.

After all, his father always told him, family is the greatest wealth.  Unfortunately this Collins family is as dysfunctional as he feels.  The lady of the manor is Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer), and learning that Barnabas is an old vampire relative doesn’t phase her so long as he can help restore the family business.  Living with her is her sullen teenaged daughter with a secret, Carolyn (Chloe Grace Moretz).  Also living with them is Elizabeth’s brother Roger (Jonny Lee Miller), his young son David (Gulliver McGrath) who sees his mother’s ghost, his governess Victoria (Bella Heathcote) and young David’s psychiatrist, the usually inebriated Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter).  Helping run the household is drunken servant, Willie (Jackie Earle Haley).

Oddly, Barnabas and his newfound family all get along.  Much of the humour in Dark Shadows comes from the family trying to help  him interpret the 1970s world, and the dialogue between family members is also humorous.  There is a fair amount of dark in Dark Shadows mainly from the owner of Angel Bay Canneries, the beautiful Angie.  As Barnabas soon discovers Angie is no other than the evil Angelique and her desire for him has never waned.  Despite a steamy hookup the two dark forces eventually face off in a final battle that shows off some interesting special effects.

For the most part, Dark Shadows feels like a light 1970s horror comedy.  There is not a lot of gore even when Barnabas feels the need to quench his thirst.  The highlight of the movie is without question Johnny Depp’s performance as the infamous vampire, and the other actors also give good and quirky performances.  There is a nice balance between comedy and special effects action.  Director Tim Burton’s touch is especially evident in the final scenes, where Angelique is transforming from human-like to hollow china doll.  The transformation is creepy and fun to watch.

Dark Shadows is entertaining for Tim Burton and Johnny Depp fans and just scary enough for those who enjoy classic vampire films.  Fans of the original Dark Shadows TV soap opera will have to judge for themselves whether or not this film is a worthy homage.  This is one movie I thoroughly enjoyed.


Dark Shadows Review by Tony

***1/2 (out of 4)

Dark Shadows is the story of the Collins family of Maine, cursed in 1780 by the witch Angelique (Eva Green) when she was spurned by the heir Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp). Buried as a vampire, Barnabas is dug up by a construction crew in 1972 and returns to the family mansion to restore it and the family seafood business to its former glory.

The current inhabitants include his descendants Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer), her brother Roger (Jonny Lee Miller), her daughter Carolyn (Chloë Grace Moretz) and his son David (Gulliver McGrath), the drunken servant Willie (Jackie Earle Haley) and Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter), the resident psychiatrist helping David cope with the loss of his mother. David’s new governess Vickie (Bella Heathcote) joins the household, bearing a strange attraction and resemblance to the ghost of Josette, led to her death by Angelique in a jealous rage over Josette’s betrothal to Barnabas. Unfortunately, Angelique has lived on and prospered over the centuries, and is not going to give up her wealth and power or Barnabas without a fight.

Dark Shadows is based on the after school soap running from 1966 to 1971 that director Tim Burton, Johnny Depp and Michelle Pfeiffer all enjoyed as kids. The film preserves its gothic charm with characteristic Burton wit and a vast improvement on the modest production values of the original, the overall look inspired by the vampire films of the 1970s. Playing nicely on the culture clash between Barnabas and the others, the script is brilliantly handled by everyone, including cameos by four of the original cast, Christopher Lee and Alice Cooper. In addition to a couple of Cooper numbers, the fine Danny Elfman score is enriched by a good selection of tunes from the period.

Burton/Depp fans will not be disappointed, nor will fans of the original series. For everyone else, Dark Shadows is worth checking out just for the fun of it.


Consensus: Although this eighth collaboration between director Tim Burton and actor Johnny Depp admittedly isn’t their best work, Dark Shadows is a thoroughly enjoyable summer film that offers fans a good mix of humour and horror.  *** (Out of 4)

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