Bruce Berman, perhaps one of the greatest producers in recent history, secures for his movie the directing talent of Tim Burton, the legendarily talented Johnny Depp, the Golden Globe winning and Academy Award nominee Michelle Pfeiffer, multiple Golden Globe and Academy Award nominee Helena Bonham Carter, French femme fatale and BAFTA nominee Eva Green, BAFTA award winner Jonny Lee Miller and the on the cusp of being the next Hollywood “it” girl the stunning Chloë Grace Moretz for a movie. Wait, wait there is more: music by Danny Elfman, cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel and art direction by Chris Lebenzon. With all this at the ready it simply doesn’t seem possible for a movie to be less than stellar but the Warner Home Video, Blu-Ray release of Dark Shadows on October 2, 2012 will prove that it is entirely possible.
As a horror/fantasy movie Dark Shadows is an outright failure with not even one flinch or creepy feeling at any point in the movie (there are a few cringe worthy moments though). As a comedy it kind of works some of the time but generally nothing quite works.
The movie is almost two different movies as if the first part was written and directed by a completely different group of people than those who took care of the rest. The story set up with voice over by a preposterous sounding Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins is quite good, well acted and intriguing. Then there is a jump cut to men digging up a grave and the rest of the movie starts. Even at this early stage things go with reasonable pace and hold together fairly well for about twenty minutes or so as Barnabas Collins finds his way in the world.
The problem with the movie is that while the line from start to finish is reasonably straight it makes a mess getting there. There are simply too many characters with too little to do which makes a mess as Barnabas jumps around from one conversation to another as he tries to exact his revenge on the evil witch who turned him into a vampire. All the actors are entirely competent. Michelle Pfiffer and Helena Bonham Carter deliver their parts well but that is all. For his part Johnny Depp’s unlikely accent combined with equally silly lines and the demeanor of Captain Jack Sparrow’s idiot brother is frequently more of a distraction than a contribution to the story. It isn’t often that Johnny Depp is the weak link in a film but such is the case here.
Under utilized in every way are Jonny Lee Miller and Chloë Grace Moretz who have brief moments on screen but have weak lines and very little opportunity to stretch. Miller gets a few brief chances and makes use of them as much as he can and definitely shows the range he is capable of when his character of Roger Collins is compared to Miller’s new outing as Sherlock Holmes in Elementary on CBS. Chloë Grace Moretz gets equally short shrift but takes advantage of her screen time to give use her rendition of teen ennui standing in sharp relief to her frenetic Hit Girl in Kick Ass and the delightfully creepy Abby in Let Me In. The fact that Miller and Moretz are the stand out performances in a major release is probably more than most people need to know about the movie.
Dark Shadows is rated PG which is an appropriate rating and definitely not for younger viewers unless parents are comfortable with explaining implied felatio between a doctor and a patient as well as a comic but violent sexual encounter between Barnabas Collins and Angelique Bouchard the witch. This may become a camp hit as it does have all the elements of camp without managing to pull it off but for the most part should probably be relegated to a second movie on a rainy night.