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Dark Shadows Review Critics


Dave White Profile

Blood Simple Read full review


Grae Drake Profile

Lower your expectations. Read full review

Other Critics provided by

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 3.0

    out of 100

    Mixed or average reviews
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 40

    out of 100

    Wall Street Journal Joe Morgenstern

    Amusing, in fits and spurts, and sure to make tons of money, but terribly familiar and fatigued.

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  • 50

    out of 100

    The Hollywood Reporter Todd McCarthy

    Dark Shadows sinks its teeth half-way into its potentially meaty material but hesitates to go all the way.

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  • 63

    out of 100

    USA Today Claudia Puig

    At its best in comic mode, more effective as goofy spoof than horror show.

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  • 83

    out of 100

    Entertainment Weekly Owen Gleiberman

    Depp's performance is more than just funny - it's ghoulishly endearing.

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  • See all Dark Shadows reviews at

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

Pause for kids 13 & under

Mixed-up Depp/Burton vampire comedy has blood, innuendo.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Dark Shadows is Tim Burton and Johnny Depp's big-screen adaptation of the cult '60s TV vampire soap opera, with a generous helping of silliness added. There's plenty of vampire violence and blood, though the blood is deliberately fake-looking, and the killings largely take place off screen. A flashback sequence involves a young girl's parents shipping her off to an asylum, where she's locked in a cell and receives electroshock therapy. While there's no nudity, there's lots of sexual innuendo and passionate kissing -- and a 15-year-old girl is disturbingly sexualized, often posing, dancing, or speaking in sexy ways. Language includes several uses of words like "s--t," "bitch," and "bastard"; the main character smokes pot in one scene, and supporting characters are shown drinking to excess. This isn't swoon-worthy vampire cinema a la Twilight, but Burton and Depp fans should enjoy the duo's always-quirky pairing.

  • Families can talk about Dark Shadows' vampire violence. Is it scary or funny? Which is it meant to be? What's shown, and what isn't shown? How does that affect its impact?
  • Are the scenes with 15-year-old Chloe Grace Moretz sexy or uncomfortable? Is she too young for this material, or does the movie's playful tone make it OK?
  • How is Angelique portrayed? Talk about female stereotypes in novels and films, particularly the "sexual (but evil) temptress."
  • Why do you think so many of the characters in this movie drink so much? Does the movie treat this seriously or jokingly?

The good stuff
  • message true0

    Messages: Dark Shadows has a narrated introduction about how important family is, and there's a takeaway about avoiding the "curse" of a loveless life, but these themes aren't conveyed strongly. Basically, It's a one-man show, with Barnabas taking center stage and rarely turning to his family or helping them with anything. The other family members appear to despise one another. An uncle chooses to leave his son in exchange for money. And in general, problems are solved through violence.

  • rolemodels true0

    Role models: Barnabas' behavior is supposed to be based on love, and he's funny and charming (for a vampire), but his actions aren't admirable -- they're mostly mean-spirited and violent. None of the supporting characters offer anything admirable, either.

What to watch for
  • violence false3

    Violence: The movie's mood is comic, so none of the violence has a heavy impact; but there are also no notable consequences for the killings -- and there are a lot of them, with lots of blood (which seems to have been deliberately colored to resemble the fake-looking TV blood of the 1960s). Most characters die off screen. The movie's climax includes a special effects-heavy supernatural fight between characters (including a stream of green vomit) but little brutality. In a flashback, parents ship a little girl off to an asylum because she sees ghosts; there are some potentially upsetting shots of her locked up in a cell and receiving electroshock treatment. Also some spooky ghosts and an explosion/fire.

  • sex false3

    Sex: Plenty of innuendo (references to touching oneself, making noises, etc.) and some passionate kissing, but no nudity. Barnabas kisses or has sexual encounters with three women (four if you count that the same actress plays women of two different eras). He has supernatural "sex" with a witch: Locked in an embrace (and still clothed), they crash all over the walls and ceiling of a room. A female character lowers her face, off screen, to the main character's crotch to (presumably) give him oral sex. A woman rips off her top to reveal her cleavage and places Barnabas' hand on her (covered) breasts. Also of note is the way in which 15-year-old actress Chloe Grace Moretz is sexualized in her scenes, posing or dancing sensually or reciting dialogue in a sexy way.

  • language false3

    Language: "S--t" is used a couple of times; "bitch," "damn," "a--hole," "hell," "bastard," "whore," "oh my God," and "balls" are also used. There's also a range of insults, including "stupid," "harlot," succubus," etc.

  • consumerism false1

    Consumerism: When Barnabas emerges from his coffin, he's entranced by a giant "McDonald's" sign. There are lots of references to 1970s-era products, some of which are still around today -- there's a Wheaties cereal box, toys like Operation and Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots, and a "troll" doll. Scooby-Doo is shown on television.

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false3

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: A supporting character is shown to have a drinking problem. It's treated comically, but she's drinking and belligerent in nearly every scene. She also pops some kind of prescription pill. Another supporting character is shown slobbering drunk in one scene. Barnabas is around a group of hippies who smoke pot. A 15-year-old girl is involved in a joke about being "stoned" (shown in the trailer), in which Barnabas misunderstands the meaning of the term.