Movie Review: Dark Shadows (2012)

Dark Shadows (dir. Tim Burton, 2012) – In 1752, Barnabas Collins broke the heart of a witch and was cursed to a fate worse than death. Buried alive for two centuries, he wakes in a foreign era to a family he never got to know.


A forgettable tale with unmemorable characters, Dark Shadows joins Tim Burton’s recent strew of let downs.



Having directed a string of brilliant works from the 1990s classic Edward Scissorhands to the more recent Sweeney Todd, Tim Burton has proven himself a master of grim fantasy with a hint of dark humour. There seems no better choice than him to bring back the beloved vampiric revenant of Dark Shadows.

Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) is the bloodsucker in question, harking back to a time where vampires still feed on human flesh and sparkles only in their teeth. Young witch Angelique (Eva Green) had cursed him to an immortal life after her love proved unrequited.  Two hundred years later, he returns home to a house of his descendants, who each harbour their own macabre secrets.

His gothic adornments may be present, as are his cast regulars and Danny Elfman’s distinct compositions. Yet this remake never quite feels like a Tim Burton movie. Even with the balance of quirks and shadows, it soon becomes clear that something vital is missing.

Where is the Burton we once knew? We find ourselves unable to sympathise with the odd family, all of whom lacking the earnest nature of his usual creations. Events play out in dry monotony without heart, empty with no desire to captivate up to an absurd finale.

Such missing sincerity is in part due to the ill-suited humour. Few gags work. The cameo appearances of Alice Cooper and a brief Donovan track, for instance, make for brief amusement. But such moments are rare. Granted that Dark Shadows puts comedy first and horror second, slapstick and predictable one-liners largely fall flat.

Despite intricate set and costume designs that accompany the visual feast, the meat of it is paper thin. Beauty lies on the surface and never extends to its storytelling that misses his usual magic. Perhaps his upcoming feature version of Frankenweenie may bring back the Burton we miss, as we reacquaint with his older original piece.

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