Johnny Depp polishes his fangs as Barnabas Collins in Dark Shadows.

Johnny Depp polishes his fangs as Barnabas Collins in Dark Shadows.

Reel Reviews: Burton film is better off undead

Tim Burton and Johnny Depp sink their fangs into '60s American gothic soap opera, Dark Shadows.

  • May. 18, 2012 10:00 a.m.

Dark Shadows tells the tale of Barnabas Collins, (Johnny Depp,) a vampire who’s been buried for 200 years, the victim of a witch’s curse (Eva Green), who grew tired of suffering an unrequited love.

Accidentally discovered during some excavating near his family’s estate in their namesake fishing town of Collinsport, Maine, the vampire is exhumed to find himself in the year 1972.

Barnabas takes it upon himself to restore what is left of his family’s fortune, honour and position in the town. However, the witch who desires him is still around and if she can’t have him, no one will.

We say, “See it if you’re a fan of cute things.”

TAYLOR: This film is based on a tongue-in-cheek “sci-fi soap opera” of the same name that ran on ABC in the ‘60s. It has a healthy cult status, but I’d  never heard of it. Now that I have, I still don’t care. This film was definitely light entertainment, as I suppose it was meant to be, but it feels sort of self-indulgent for the people involved. I read that Depp loved the show as a kid, as did director Tim Burton, but I’m wondering how many others did?

HOWE: Probably not many. Most of the people I’ve talked to have never heard of it. If you are going to see Dark Shadows thinking it’s a comedy, don’t bother. All the jokes used in the movie are in the minute-and-a-half trailer you can see on TV or online.

TAYLOR: It kind of felt like a comedic soap opera, and by that I mean “it belongs on television.” The jokes were just dirty enough that you couldn’t quite show the movie on normal TV, but it was borderline, about where “dirty” meets “cutesy,” if that’s a word.

HOWE: Ahhh, you mean “dirtsy.”

TAYLOR: One thing that I’ve always enjoyed about Tim Burton films is their look. This film, although not over the top in its design, it had a very nice, realistic darkness to it. I especially enjoyed the black woods and blacker sea, the estate house too had a great Gothic realism.

HOWE: That’s where I was a little disappointed. Yes, Burton’s movies are dark, but they always have the offset of really vivid characters and colours. The brightest colour in Dark Shadows is Helena Bonham Carter’s orange hair. To me it just felt blahhhhh.

TAYLOR: If you think Depp’s cute, makeup clad quirkiness is enough to carry a movie, then you might find yourself satisfied. I couldn’t care less.

HOWE: Johnny’s a good actor, but he often coasts through these types of roles and they’re getting stale. Overall I was disappointed, but on a positive note the 70s’ soundtrack was groovy.

–– Taylor gives Dark Shadows 2 fangs out of 5.

–– Howe gives it 1.5 litres of blood out of 5.

The feature is currently showing at Galaxy Cinemas in Vernon.

–– Brian Taylor and Peter Howe are movie critics living in Vernon, B.C.