The quick rundown: The cursed vampire Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) awakens from a 200-year-old imprisonment to the 1972, and quickly discovers that his family’s legacy and home is in shambles. He’s determined to turn this around and restore the Collin’s name, but first he must get through Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green): his former lover and witch who’s cursed him and his entire family.
Now I wasn’t around for the original Dark Shadows series, and I’ve only viewed a few episodes, so I can’t really compare. It’s definitely a spoof. Campy jokes with moments of genuine spookiness—unfortunately, I think it could’ve used more spooks.
Looking at this film as purely comedy, I’d say it succeeded in that I did laugh and found myself grinning most of the time. However, if you’re looking for a film with depth and character development, ehhh….
The story is rather weak, especially the romance. You see, Barnabas had a fiancé, who seems to have been reincarnated as the family’s governess, Maggie Evans/Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcote)—and yes, they cleverly combined two of the characters from the series. Now you would expect we’d be seeing a lot of her in the film. Nope. We get maybe five minutes of them being together on screen. Most of the time it’s Barnabas and his ongoing battle with Angelique. And likewise, the rest of the cast sort of fades into the shadows, at least until the end when they’re actually good for something.
Which is unfortunate because each character had an untold story arc. There was David (Gulliver McGrath), the supposed “crazy” child who talked with his mother’s ghost. Carolyn (Chloë Grace Moretz) the sassy teenager with a dark secret of her own—and this one was annoying because you weren’t even given a hint. Dr. Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter) obsession with staying young, otherwise, an unimportant character who’s there to set up a potential sequel. And so on…
Now if I may contrast this to The Avengers--which is awesome and you should absolutely see it—each character is given a bit of screen time where they work out conflicts with one another, and learn to fight together. No one is left out. Whereas Dark Shadows didn’t seem to care about anyone else but Barnabas.
Then there’s the Bella Complex—inspired by Twilight. When you find out that your boyfriend is actually one of the undead, what is your reaction? Is it:
A) I’m down with necrophilia. Free love, baby.
B) Dead dudes? No way! I think I’ll check out those lively guys from The Avengers.
C) Oh noes! My life is RUINED! *throws self off cliff*
I thought we were living in an age where females were strong, capable, and could stand on their own two feet. What, no? Girls still need their white knights? Damn.
All in all, if like spoofs, watching Johnny Depp in white make-up and Eva Green’s bosom, then you’ll find some enjoyment in this. But, if you’re looking for some great characters, go see The Avengers—no, I can’t emphasis this enough.
Dark Shadows receives 3 out of 5 cursed stars.