Collaborations between Johnny Depp and Tim Burton are a crapshoot. There are great ones like “Edward Scissorhands”, but then there are messes like the creepy “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, that was just weird for the sake of weird. Unfortunately, as much as I’d like to say that “Dark Shadows” fits into the former list, this campy goth comedy actually ends up such a godawful mess that it best fits in the bad film list. Even with Danny Elfman’s music.
Based on a dated and melodramatic 1960’s TV series of the same name, “Dark Shadows” revolves around vampire and family patriarch Barnabas Collins (Depp) who is cursed and buried alive for almost 200 years by jealous and spurned witch and former lover Angelique (Eva Green) after he finds Josette (Bella Heathcote) far more interesting. Unburied inadvertantly by some unlucky construction workers, Barnabas wakes up in 1972 Collinsport to find that his family’s business has collapsed and that Angelique’s “Angel Bay” fish company has grown and now employs everyone in town, including all the local fishermen.
Meanwhile, chez Collinwood, the ancestral home, has fallen into disrepair and is now home to a motley crew of weirdoes: Family matriarch Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer), her daughter-with-a-secret Carolyn (Chloë Grace Moretz), her slacker brother Roger (Jonny Lee Miller), his son David (Gully McGrath) and Dr. Julia (Helena Bonham Carter), hired to treat David, who is ostensibly crazy but actually seems the most sane of everyone in this Addams Family band of oddballs.
The first hour of the film is terrific, actually. I really enjoyed Depp in his role as vampire-out-of-time Barnabas and he’s clearly having a good time with the goth makeup, long nails and foppish clothing. Unfortunately about half-way through Angelique and Barnabas resurrect their relationship with a ghastly stupid, over the top love making scene that left me ready to walk out. Why not have something a bit more restrained so that that the playful nature of the film could continue? I’m telling you, dear reader, the scene where they make love, slamming into walls, smashing each other into furniture and scratching up the walls, is one of the most tacky and inappropriate I’ve seen in a long time.
Not much later in the film, mysterious young nanny Victoria (Bella Heathcote again) shares her backstory and for reasons of what can only presumed to be bad judgment on the part of the director and producers, includes a scene that would fit better into the torture-porn film “Sucker Punch”.
By the time the film ends, there are so many logical inconsistencies — like whether Barnabas can survive being in direct sunlight or not — that this critic just threw up his hands and breathed a sigh of relief when the credits rolled. You may like it, you might even love the scenes that I so strongly disliked. But then… you’d be wrong. Just trust me on this one.