Dave White
Dark Shadows Review

Dave's Rating:

1.5

Blood Simple

Tough luck, Dark Shadows faithful, you aren't going to think much of this movie. But then again you were sufficiently warned with that wacky comedy trailer early on, a coming-attraction that loudly belched its disinterest in anything resembling the source material, the spooky, serious, supernatural soap opera the most devout among you had come to worship. If you still choose to pony up the cash for a ticket then you have only yourselves to blame.

But what about the rest of you? The laws of probability make it a more or less safe assumption that you've never laid eyes on the old-school Dark Shadows. If you're interested it's most likely because you need regular doses of Johnny Depp stepping into a fresh disguise and bouncing around the frame. And if that's enough for you then your consumer expectations will have been met. Depp plays a vampire-heir to a fishery fortune under siege from a libidinous witch (Eva Green), a woman whose love he rejected two centuries ago. She buries him alive as punishment and he's accidentally unearthed in 1972. Here come the macrame jokes and Barry White songs. Is that what you want?

Maybe it is. Maybe you never saw Love At First Bite or The Brady Bunch Movie (it seems like Tim Burton didn't bother to watch them either -- or maybe he watched them too much and decided to make his own versions). Maybe far-out hippies and The Carpenters still make you giggle on sight. That's groovy. Have a good time with all the weren't-the-70s-stupid gags as the film drops Johnny Depp into one 40 year-old pop culture moment after another, allowing him to react with a mixture of ghoulish sarcasm and bewilderment (a lava lamp example: "What is that pulsating blood urn?") before whisking him off to the next station of the of the upside-down cross.

And if that's not your thing, don't freak out because there are a few other movies vying for dominance in the same space. There's a Sixth Sense-y kid with a hand in the plot, there's a Corpse Bride thread, an extremely regressive subtextual story about the servant class needing to know their place and a Fatal Attraction do-over about the perils of powerful men dangling the romance-carrot in the faces of inherently evil women. You get an exhausted Big Fish family-comes-first morality tale and an Edward Scissorhands monster out of water story about a lost man who needs love. Burton references others and references himself and it's such a colossal mess that he doesn't seem to care if he keeps all these plates spinning. He doesn't even care if he ends the movie in a way that allows you to know what happens to all the characters. Or maybe he just got lost in making everything look really cool.

And that is, at least, one reason to come visit Burton's world again and again. It always is, with sets and effects and costumes that are like a two hour visit to Disneyland's Haunted Mansion when they dress it up every December in Nightmare Before Christmas garb. His visual pleasures never fail to satisfy. And, if nothing else, where else are you going to find a movie where the action hinges on a pair of dueling fish stick factories? That's got to be worth a little bit of something. But just a little bit.

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