Film Reviews

DARK SHADOWS

By • May 26th, 2012 •

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Steven Spielberg, and not Tim Burton, should have directed this big-budgeted Dark Shadows remake! From 1966 to 1970, the TV series, Dark Shadows, told, in serial form, stories of vampires, witches, time travel and werewolves. The show kept school kids and housewives riveted to the television screen. The storylines and the fun performances by its terrific cast overshadowed the many technical problems that infested live TV at the time.

I say Spielberg, because he is a master of telling fantastic stories about people. Tim Burton is quickly becoming the master of playing dress-up with his cast and visuals, and very little else.

Both the film and TV series follow the same story – Barnabas Collins, a centuries old vampire, is released from his chained coffin. He returns to his family estate, interacts with his eccentric descendants, and sucks the blood from anybody wandering too close.

The TV Barnabas Collins, played with glorious theatrical flair by the late Jonathan Frid, returns from the 18th Century to modern Collinsport, and quickly grasps technical advances such as electricity and cars. Dark Shadows’ creators, Dan Curtis, knew his audience would rather get wrapped up in a fine spooky story then sit through many tired “fish-out-of water” jokes. In the new film, is it really funny to have old-world Barnabas snarl “reveal thyself – tiny songstress!” when he sees a televised Karen Carpenter? The TV Dark Shadows gave us a Collins family we could bond with. The heads of the household displayed backbone. The Collins women were earthy. The two dark-spirited Collins men, Barnabas and the Heathcliffe-like Quentin Collins (David Selby) were exciting alpha-males bordering on scary madness.

Tim Burton’s Collins family members are simply unlikable. The Collins’ kids are now nasty piss-ants who mouth catch phrases meant for a quick chuckle. Roger, the family matriarch, is like one of those spineless wussies who last only one day working at a fast food joint. In the film, when the centuries old Angelique (a delightfully evil Eva Green) offers a fortune to Barnabas to buy the Collins’ family business, I was like “Family ties, my eye! Dude, take the money!” Depp does make Barnabas his own, a sympathetic supernatural loner who has our attention. But, Depp’s Barnabas is dressed like his other Tim Burton characters, such as The Mad Hatter, Sweeny Todd and Willy Wonka. His wardrobe suggests a first year art student, not a character from literature.

The TV Dark Shadows presented only a few rooms of Collinswood, the gothic estate owned by the troubled Collins. It was a cozy, low-budget House of the Seven Gables. Burton’s Collinswood is an overdose of character-free CGI staircases, gargoyles and woodwork. You would think this castle was made up of those supermarket Halloween decorations you get for $ 3.99!

Watching DARK SHADOWS, I was thinking of an earlier and much better Tim Burton film, BEETLEJUICE. That film also had supernatural beings mingling with a troubled family in a big house. So, what happened Tim?

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