Jack Goes Confidential: ‘DARK SHADOWS’ Serves Up Retro Weirdness

Never having been a fan of ABC’s old TV soaper my expectations of Tim Burton‘s movie adaptation were at best "in-check."
And guess what DARK SHADOWS the movie pretty well delivered on those expectations. Not more. Maybe even a little less.
Twisting the shows storyline just a bit, Warner Brothers’ big screen adaptation maintains the basic plot of Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) who in 1752, along with his family, set sail for America where he became quite the heartbreaker.
But when he broke the wrong woman’s heart—she got even!

She also happened to be a jealous witch who cursed him, destroyed his family, turned him into a vampire and buried Barnabas alive chained to his coffin.
Now move up to 1972 where Barnabas is freshly dug up by an ill-fated construction crew and resurrected in Collinwood only to find his old family’s descendants in ruins. There’s disco, microwaves, Chevy’s—even The Carpenters performing on television for this vampire fish-out-of-water to face.
And his parents old cannery now belongs to Angel Bay Foods controlled by Angie Bouchard (Eva Green) a.k.a. Angelique. She’s the witch who cursed Barnabas to his fate of the living dead, preventing him from marrying his beloved Josette (Bella Heathcote) who just happens to be the new Collins family governess.
Come to think of it, this still plays like a gothic soap opera.
Is it creepy? Not so much. But Johnny Depp, who also co-produced the movie, sure gives it a try here.

My biggest beef with the picture is that it’s uneven. Like they couldn’t make up their minds whether to make it campy or play it straight. And some of the scenes go on too long and way beyond their expected ‘wink-wink’ time limit.
For example, Alice Cooper‘s appearance – who Depp’s Barnabas refers to as "the ugliest woman I’ve ever seen" outlasts its welcome.
The trailer for DARK SHADOWS would have you believe that it’s a comedy along the lines of THE ADDAMS FAMILY or THE MUNSTERS.

It’s not.
Which is not to say it’s not entertaining!
Johnny Depp as Barnabas, who even in death has a weakness for flesh, is definitely in his element here. So is Michelle Pfeiffer as family matriarch Elizabeth.

Pfeiffer told me at the recent CinemaCon conclave in Vegas that she was a huge fan of the old TV series and openly campaigned and finally persuaded Tim Burton to give her the movie role.
Others in the cast include Helena Bonham Carter as child psychiatrist Julia Hoffman. Carolyn is played by Chloe Grace Moretz while Jackie Earle Haley is the family’s hired helper.
Add Danny Elfman‘s bewitching score and The Moody Blues‘ "Nights In White Satin" and you’ve got a DARK SHADOWS whose main character’s curse is finally broken. But not before a battle of werewolves, witches and vampires.
The reinvention raises 3-1/2 out of 5 foreboding fingers.
JACK GOES TO THE MOVIES Friday mornings at 6:40 a.m. on NewsRadio KMBZ Am & Fm and anytime on Time-Warner Cable’s K.C. ON DEMAND, Channel 411.

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One Response to Jack Goes Confidential: ‘DARK SHADOWS’ Serves Up Retro Weirdness

  1. Jenn says:

    I remember watching the show as a kid and thought is was pretty cool. Sometimes though its best to keep old dogs sleep.

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