Dark Shadows.

I went to see yet another movie that’s getting bad reviews, Dark Shadows. I’ve heard things like, It’s not very Tim Burton.

I’m not sure what that means, and I’m not sure if it’s good or bad. That there weren’t characters with cone or football shaped heads? I think that I am ok with that. I’m not usually a Tim Burton fan, but Johnny Depp’s another story.

So despite the reviews, we went. The preview trailers were disappointing—Frankenweinie? Really? Mary Shelley, I am so sorry, the modern world has taken a great piece of literature and reduced it to this. Please forgive the diminishing capacity of the human spirit. But then the opening scene to Dark Shadows was set to The Moody Blues, Nights in White Satin, I decided it might have promise, or at very least a good soundtrack.

I came away ambivalent, thinking, well I just don’t know. Depp plays Barnabus well. Jonathan Frid would have been proud of him. He’s villainous, creepy, contrite, and just the right mix of humorous (dark humor of course). But, Angeluqie doesn’t travel in time, she has lived the two hundred years… Burton creates a composite character out of Maggie/Victoria/Josette—and I still don’t know how I feel about that. Not that I’m a purist about these things, but, generally speaking, composite characters diminish the strength of the story. It’s hard to be a writing teacher sometimes.

And Quentin never showed up. This made me sad. I loved Quentin.

Elizabeth Collins Stoddard is perfectly played by Michelle Pfeiffer. But the only allusion to her back-story is when her daughter, Carolyn, does an intro to an Alice Cooper song, The Ballad of Dwight Frye (great soundtrack, by the way, did I say that already?); Mommy, where’s Daddy? He’s been gone for so long…

The movie almost challenges the viewer, do you know where Daddy is?

I knew. And I think that was important, I got the joke. I got all the jokes; about the story, and about the era. I laughed out loud a lot.

I laughed at the details; Deliverance playing at the local theater; the VW bus; the perfectly timed music; like the original series, in some places the imperfect sets; the actors hesitating just long enough to make you wonder if perhaps, like in the TV show, they had forgotten their lines.

I got it.  And I laughed. I enjoyed it. Like the show it was based on, the film Dark Shadows reminds us to lighten up! Stop looking for hidden meanings, some things you either get, or you don’t. Just enjoy the ride. Listen to some good music and, for God sake, laugh a little!

Don’t go to this movie expecting a remake of the show. Don’t go in search of answers to life’s questions. Don’t go with expectation. If you remember the era, go for the nostalgia, the music—the things about life we couldn’t laugh at then, but we can now. Go because Gothic doesn’t mean what it meant in 1972. But what it meant then is worth remembering.

And go for the music!

Look out Rocky Horror—Dark Shadows is a cult classic in the making!


10 thoughts on “Dark Shadows.

    • that was kinda the message of the TV show — the irony being that if followed 3.5 hours of soap opera drama… Ryan’s Hope, All My Children, One Life to Live, and General Hospital… It was awesome 🙂

  1. I was pretty excited when I heard this movie was coming out, even more excited when I heard Johnny Depp would be Barnabas Collins, then I saw the trailer and knew I wouldn’t go. The TV show wasn’t serious, I know that, but I wasn’t expecting farce. I may wait for the Netflix DVD, given your comments. Maybe I’ll just pretend it’s not entitled Dark Shadows.

    Thanks for your movie reviews. I enjoyed both The Raven and The Avengers based on them. 😉

    • Thanks, Maggie. I don’t go to the movies often, but I try to choose carefully. And thank God for Netflix.

  2. Although I’m “of that certain age” where I should have seen the original show, I didn’t. (Grew up in Europe – without TV) So I don’t have any nostalgic hang-ups. To me Burton is…well…Burton and he tends to hire Depp and makes silly movies. What the hell…sounds like fun!

  3. Thank you for writing this review! I love Johnny Depp so I was going to see it regardless of the reviews, but I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed it. I didn’t watch the original show, but I heard a lot of people were unhappy about how the movie turned out.

  4. Thanks Mel, for this insightful review. When I first heard that Tim Burton was making this movie, I was a bit disappointed. I loved Dark Shadows just the way it was and I think I just wanted a more “hip” version made. But that is just my problem with trying to deal with THE CHALLENGE OF CHANGE sometimes (this is my own personal joke referring to my experience in Corporate America where they make you take classes with names like that – but that’s another story). Burton always puts such a spin on things and it has not always been to my liking but it seems that more I read about him, the more I end up liking his movies!

    I have always appreciated Tim Burton’s creativity. I guess that’s why I’ve seen so many of his movies – OR maybe it’s because I really like Johnny Depp. But my opinion of his work began to shift dramatically after seeing “Sleepy Hollow”. He really is amazing, and right down to every little detail. I love the subtleties as much as the fierceness in his fright. His humor is genuine.

    Thinking about and writing all of this down, along with reading your review, has made me re-think this and I’ve decided that maybe he was a great choice to remake Dark Shadows after all. I’m looking forward to laughing at it, listening to a great soundtrack, and trying to figure out where the hell Daddy went! I’ll keep you posted.

    • I think it’s Johnny Depp. He owns his roles so well. If you watched the original Dark Shadows — there is a whole storyline around Elizabeth’s husband…

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