I just got back from seeing the new Dark Shadows film and I'm surprised that the Midnight Screening video on the movie hasn't been posted yet. Don't know if Brad and Co. did see a midnight screening of the film, but whatever. Still, I thought I may post a lengthy review of the film from a non-fan's point of view. If you read my profile, I work as a film critic for a small Maine newspaper and my reviews are usually limited, so I thought I can get out this long review for anybody who's interested. First of all, I never saw the original Dark Shadows series because I don't care about soap operas. They're just not my thing. However, my parents used to watch the show when it was on in the late 60s. I saw the film with my father and he thought it was okay even though I know it'll make some hardcore fans pretty mad. So here are my thoughts on the movie in full.
Also, keep in mind that this long review contains some SPOILERS! I don't normally do spoiler reviews in my regular reviews, so think of this as an exclusive review for the curious. If you have not seen the movie yet, you don't need to read on.
To begin with, I love watching Tim Burton films mostly with Johnny Depp starring in it. His own visual imprint is always fascinating to watch combined with the eccentric appeal of Depp's characters. My favorite out of all of them is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I know some people trash this film as simply a "remake" of 1971's Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory though I firmly grasp that it's more of a second (and more faithful) adaptation of the original book. I always look forward to what the two men have to offer and this movie is no exception.
The production values are top notch and some of the effects look great especially the ghosts. It also boasts a well put together cast. No doubt it's Depp's show with his amazing creativity that he puts in his characters. The only problem I'm sure some people will have is the way Barnabas talks with his 18th-century lingo. My dad was a little put-off by the dialogue and I can understand why. I know Barnabas was from the 18th-century but with the way he talks, you need to read a 18th-century thesaurus to understand his character better. The rest of the cast all do a great job with the actresses including Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Eva Green, and Chloe Grace Moretz doing great work. Anyone who loves Jackie Earl Haley in Watchmen and the Nightmare on Elm Street remake will enjoy his hilarious performance as the Collins gardener. One cast highlight for me is Christopher Lee as the old fisherman who got hypnotized by Barnabas. For a veteran actor approaching 90 and still working in the movies limited to small roles and cameos, he is always amazing and thrilling to watch. Can't wait for his reprisal of his Saruman character for the upcoming two-part Hobbit film. He never dissapoints!
The biggest problem I have with the movie is that the screenplay needs more polishing. It seems obvious that Burton wanted to tell a 'fish-out-of-water' story which is fine. However, the script could've used more balance especially with the subplots involving the Collins family. My guess is maybe there were scenes left out of the theatrical version that Burton wanted to trim to keep it under two hours that would've explained the movie a little more. If there's an extended edition on Blu-Ray down the line, I would like to see it. Also, this movie might really be a bit more different than the original series because of its comedic tone. I'm no fan of the show, but I'm pretty sure the comedy was added so that anyone who hasn't seen the show won't be bored by the melodrama. I don't have a problem with it and I do find the movie entertaining with its funny moments, but I know there will be fans out there who will be angry with it.
This next paragraph contains spoilers about the climax. This is the Point of No Return, so please skip to the next paragraph if you don't want to know what happens at the end.
While the climatic scenes in the Collinwood Manor is intense and suspenseful, it feels like a remake of an ending to a 1960's Roger Corman Poe film including the destruction of a mansion. They do include some cool moments like the mermaid statues coming to life and the laughing portraits. One thing I find odd about is how Angelique turns out in the end. When she starts cracking apart, I thought to myself that is she a witch or a mannequin doll. I guess they couldn't think of a way to kill her off without going for the obvious route like, I don't know maybe "burning" her. But the one thing I thought was the most cheap is where Chloe's character turns out to be a werewolf. Now I do like the twist that Helena's Dr. Hoffman was a vampire trying to be mortal, but the werewolf twist came way out of left field. I know there was an explanation especially since Angelique did curse the whole family, but there weren't any clues to be found just to make sense of it. Maybe there's a deleted scene somewhere where there is a clue, but who knows. Still, I like they keep it open-ended for a possible sequel like a cliffhanger to the next episode of the soap opera series. If there is a sequel, maybe they can add more vampires and quite possibly zombies to the mix since there is a werewolf. Even if it does totally suck for most DS fans, at least it can still make enough money to warrant that kind of sequel.
To conclude, Dark Shadows is not as great as the other Burton/Depp movies, but I was still entertained all the way through. I'll still buy the Blu-Ray maybe with a WB Maximum Movie Mode hosted by Depp and Burton. That would be awesome! If you're a fan of the original series, you may not like it. I'm only recommending it to just fans of classic Gothic horror films like Hammer and Corman's Poe. It has enough elements from those films to quench anybody's taste for dark horror. If you like this review, maybe you'll like to try out this sequel poll above. A Dark Shadows sequel may sound crazy, but I'm sure some of us wouldn't mind it.