Review: Dark Shadows

I did not get a chance to see Dark Shadows in the regular theater as it only lasted about a two weeks before getting pushed out by other fare. It is a good thing that a fifteen minute drive away from my home, there is a great two dollar theater. I really enjoyed this film and think that it is a shame it did not make enough in domestic gross to warrant a sequel (maybe with the foreign box office, rentals, video purchase and on demand added in, a sequel can be justified. I can always hope). I blame this in large part on the marketing campaign.

Everything in the advertising was designed to make this film look like Austen Powers meets Nosferatu. While there is a bit of this goofy humor in the film the majority of the movie is a tale of love and loyalty. What makes a family? Is it the biological father of a boy traumatized by his mothers death? A man who is no more than a scoundrel and a thief. Or is it the vampire who cares for and protects the child that is a true father?  What is the difference between love and lust? Is their such a thing as honor in business?

For fans of Johnny Depp, you won’t be disappointed. Once again, he creates a unique character who is only trying to survive in a world where he doesn’t belong. Depp’s Barnabas Collins is an honorable man, driven to desperate actions. Unlike many of Depp’s other characters, Barnabas is an upstanding person. It isn’t his fault he happens to have to eat people from time to time. With the long creepy digits of Max Schreck every one of Barnabas’s hand movements is hypnotizing. In his incredibly stiff way, Barnabas exudes a hip aura. It is easy to see him as the coolest guy in the room during the late 1700’s. Even in the 1970’s not knowing the modern ways, he is still super hip in his own way.

Burton does his usual fantastic job of directing. I know that not everyone is a fan of his aesthetic. I also realize I am partial because when I was young, one of my uncles used to show me Beetlejuice every time I spent the night. What can I say, I just love the way Burton’s films look. The combination of dark backgrounds juxtaposed with deep, rich colors always looks amazing to me. I think the costuming is always dead on. I still want the bathing suit Depp wears in Sweeney Todd.

Dark Shadows is not the best film I have seen this year but it was good solid entertainment. I feel that once again, we have a film which is suffering from backlash. The tides are turning on the vampire genre. It seems that vein has been almost sucked dry. Too much Bella, Sookie and Abraham Lincoln (another film I saw this weekend. It was underwhelming. I find this funny since Seth Grahame-Smith was a writer on both). Soon it will be time for vampires to fade into the background. No doubt they will emerge again as the top monster of the moment. After all, genre is cyclical. I just hope that when vampires swing around again, people will look back on Dark Shadows fondly.

Final Grade: B


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