DARK Shadows is the eighth collaboration between one of Hollywood’s greats Johnny Depp and cult director Tim Burton.
Some of their celebrated collaborative works include Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Sleepy Hollow and, most recently, Alice In Wonderland.
Based on Depp’s selection of roles, we all know by now that he simply loves the challenge of portraying characters that are anything but “normal”.
The eccentric Burton is perhaps the best director to provide Depp such challenges, thanks to his penchant for making dark fantasy films.
With such themes, it was surprising that Burton made Dark Shadows into a comedy. It might have worked on some parts of the film, but knowing Burton’s credibility, it would have worked if it were a pure horror film, sans humour.
Based on the TV series that Depp and Burton loved watching as kids, Dark Shadows is about wealthy playboy Barnabas Collins (Depp). He rejects the love of the witch Angelique (Eva Green), who subsequently put a curse on him, turning him into a vampire. He’s buried alive before he is accidentally set free two centuries later, in 1972. He returns to his manor where his descendants are needing his help to survive.
Since this is another Burton and Depp collaboration, there was great hype among fans prior to the movie’s release. Unfortunately, the cinematic direction proves to be a little loose, resulting in messy projection and presentation of scenes.
There are some mistakes here and there, the biggest being that no one (in 1972) questions Barnabas about his awfully pale skin or peculiar appearance as a whole. Instead, they poke fun at his bizarre behaviour.
The film is also rather lacking in the humour department, despite being a comedy. It relies mainly on scenes showing Barnabas trying to adapt to a new environment. These are indeed some of the best scenes, thanks to Depp’s well-played facial expressions and awkward reactions. He knows that they are laughter triggers and makes full use of them.
Apart from that, the script seems rather dull.
Although Depp can’t beat the Cullens in slurping blood in the coolest fashion, he gives an amazing performance as a charismatic yet bumbling vampire.
Equally impressive is Green, who is the epitome of a beautiful villain. Looking even prettier without her signature eye-lined eyes, she flaunts her beauty naturally but her looks are marred by an unnatural-looking wig.
The others do all right, but their characters are rather dull and ill-constructed compared to Depp and Green’s. Pfeiffer plays Barnabas’ mysterious cousin Elizabeth.
Growing up too fast is Chloe Grace Moretz who plays Elizabeth’s moody daughter, Carolyn. She is sometimes over-the-top in portraying her character.
For a governess, Vicky doesn’t do much “governing” in the film, acting more like a guest in the house. Playing her is budding Australian actress Bella Heathcote, who looks so sweet despite having a mature disposition. Vicky resembles Barnabas’s Josette whose tragic death was hard on the man. However, when he and Vicky meet, his reaction lacks the surprise factor that he should be feeling.
On the plus side, the songs featured are all gems from the 1970s and they bring back nostalgic memories.
The creative and special effects departments deserve two thumbs-up for their work on the film. The fantastic setting looks both wondrous and creepy.
Dark Shadows moves at a moderate pace. Fans of fantasy, comedy and Burton and Depp should enjoy it.
Directed by Tim Burton
Starring Johnny Depp, Eva Green, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Bella Heathcote and Chloë Grace Moretz
Duration 113 mins