Trailer Truth: Do the Ads Help or Hurt 'Dark Shadows'

Trailer Truth: Do the Ads Help or Hurt 'Dark Shadows'

May 11, 2012

I never watch a trailer until after I’ve seen the movie, and I also attempt to avoid as much news as possible. Then I compare what I knew, to what you knew. Let’s find out if what we see in the trailer is what we get, and if there is any advantage to going in fresh. (There will be spoilers.)

What I Knew Before: Dark Shadows isn't just another chance for BFFs Tim Burton and Johnny Depp to hang out in creepy, dark corners. It was one of the oddest soap operas ever. I caught a few back when the Syfy Network was brand new (I think) and airing the reruns. (Actually, I'm thinking of the failed remake starring Ben Cross and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.) The only information I retained was that a vampire was involved. There was also a This American Life episode I listened to a few months ago called "Conventions." Even the man who attended the Dark Shadows conventions was tired of these characters. So why did Burton want to resurrect this cult following? Did he want to prove those Twilight teens don't have anything on him? Let's find out.

What I Knew After: Oh, it's a '70s sitcom. Or at least that seems to be what works in this film. It honestly plays like eight TV episodes that have been edited together into one two-hour movie. Beyond Depp we have Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Eva Green, Jackie Earle Haley, Chloë Grace Moretz, Jonny Lee Miller, Bella Heathcote, Christopher Lee, and even Alice Cooper. It's a big cast and Burton isn't able to get much flow out of it. Characters disappear for huge chunks of time. The core of what works is Depp playing a 200-year-old vampire, who is now trying to adjust to the cultural changes of the 1970s. But don't worry, there's also this plot of two fishing companies trying to control the town. Oh wait, that's a reason to worry. The trailer must be filled with comedic Depp moments, and showcasing the wonderful set and costume designs. Anything else, and this movie won't sell.

What You Knew: Depp introduces himself as Barnabas Collins with a voiceover. In fact, the beginning of the trailer is simply a condensed version of the start of the film. A jealous witch (one of the worst kinds of witches) curses Barnabas. It's all very serious at this point. There's a ghost floating around and then Barnabas finds out he's now "living" in 1972. Cue the dated music! The Collins family takes him in, and we see a pretty lame gag of Depp brushing his teeth in a mirror. Barnabas is confused by cars and TV. But then his focus turns, because the witch is back. They flirt and fight. Barnabas explains he wants the family business to thrive again (fishing/canning), then we see it blow up. Man, that witch has a temper, though not enough to stop Barnabas from hooking up with her. The kicker at the end of the trailer is Moretz asking Depp if he's stoned, and he responses as a vampire should.

Trailer Truth: Trying to sell this film must be killing Warner Bros. The film plays up the '70s even more than Super 8 tried to play up the '80s last summer. But there in lies the problem. No one from the '70s cares about Dark Shadows. There never was a broad audience. The look of the film is great with Burton and his team creating plenty of interesting things to look at. The funny thing about the trailer is, while the film is a romance, it's not about Depp and Green's witch getting together. Heathcote plays Barnabas' lost love and modern day passion. She's barely even shown in the trailer. I found the inclusion of the fishing business an odd side-story to the film, but what's even worse is, that whole thing is summed up in the trailer, including the cannery going up in flames. The final battle to strewn throughout the second-half of the trailer, but thankfully they omit some wonderful special effects with Green's body. I am impressed they don't give away the twists involving Carter, Moretz or Miller. The bottom line is, Depp's old-school vampire stuck in "modern" times is the joy of this film. The trailer gives you about half of the comedic jokes based on his "fish out of water" character. If you want to see the other half, then head off to Dark Shadows.

Tags: Dark Shadows
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