MOVIE REVIEW | "Dark Shadows" is yet another flame-out for Tim Burton and Johnny Depp

Barnabas Collins is the latest in a long line of Tim Burton heroes who are tragically but picturesquely disabled such that they cannot satisfy the ones they love—and also the latest in an only-slightly-shorter line of those heroes played by Johnny Depp. Burton himself has such a disability; in the director’s case, it’s the inability to sustain the imagination required to end a movie as interestingly as it begins. Dark Shadows is yet another Burton movie that goes completely off the rails with an overblown and incoherent action climax that turns the audience’s chuckles into yawns. Tragic.

Burton’s Dark Shadows is based on the TV series of the same name, a daytime soap that ran on ABC from 1966 to 1971 and is now regarded as a cult classic. In our vampire-obsessed pop-culture moment, there’s vast potential to have fun with the idea of a campy supernatural soap opera. Burton and screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith have a tiny bit of that fun, and then they start blowing things up.

In the film, Collins is turned into a vampire in the Colonial era by comely serving wench/witch Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green), who he spurns for a woman he loves (a perfectly cast Bella Heathcote). When construction workers unearth Collins’s coffin in 1972, he finds that his family’s fishing empire has taken a turn for the worse due to two centuries of stiff (so to speak) competition from a company founded and still run by the deathless Bouchard. (The Collins family must have good insurance, since it seems oddly laborious for Bouchard to ruin the family by means of market forces rather than by simply—as the witch demonstrates the ability to do—sending their properties up in smoke.)

After an appropriately Gothic prelude, Dark Shadows peaks briefly and early as Barnabas acclimates himself to the Me Decade. Though Grahame-Smith is lacking in the storytelling department, the screenwriter has a lot of fun weaving high-diction dialogue for Depp to spout as he discovers television and hippies and Erich Segal. Soon, though, the vampire falls for the nanny (Heathcote again), and Bouchard looks to repeat her kill-one-and-coffin-the-other trick. Awkward sex and boring violence ensue.

Gene Siskel had an excellent question he’d pose regarding movies: Is this movie more entertaining than a documentary about the same actors having lunch? Dark Shadows suggests another question: Could your local improv comedy troupe do a better job with this material if given the same premise and instructed to riff on it for 90 minutes? I’ll be they could, especially if you threw in that $100 million budget.

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Jay Gabler's picture
Jay Gabler

Jay Gabler (@JayGabler) is a digital producer at The Current and Classical MPR. He was arts editor at the Twin Cities Daily Planet from 2007-2013.


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i agree with you completely.

It had so much potential...but ended poorly.  How many times can you say "I should have killed you years ago" and then just not do it.  Apparently they both have unlimited powers, except when they fight each other or have sex.  On the flip side, I think the acting, casting, and scenery, could have saved it, but I think the producer may have gotten ahold of the ending and messed it all up.

dark shadows

i thought he movie rocked

Dark Shadows

Ok, l watched the original series from the first day to the last.....if you are trying to compare a soap opera from 1966 to ANYTHING current you are not going to be impressed! an episode or two on Netflix and you will have to admit the budget they were working with..WHAT BUDGET? The actors..have we seen them in anything else????

Having said this l loved the series was entertaining and damn scarey to a nine year old! l was not expecting a remake of sorts of the original or some kind of continuation of a storyline from 1971 that no one would even begin to understand! Johnny was fabulous as was the rest of the cast! l loved the attention to detail, the costumes were fabulous and it was hilarious! Sorry.....lf you didnt like it, you just didnt get it......which is very typical with Tim Burtans movies!

Dark Shadows

Having hurried home from schoo, back in the day,,, just to catch a glimpse of dashing David Selby as Quentin and of course the ever brooding/suffering Barnabas, I can tell you that Mr. Johnny Depp did a smashing job of bringing Barnabas to the screen. The very talented Mr. Depp is a treat all in himself let alone getting to once again see a very beloved Gothic series. What an absolute, positive treat. The movie was entertaining, humorous and very much so, eye candy. Thumbs up!

dark shadows

it really sucked. just saying


Re: Dark Shawdows

I loved the was great! Visuals were amazing~actors were precise and it left much for the imagination. Frankly, I am repulsed over these reality shows and real life movie videos that leave little to the imagination and deplete the creativity of the human mind. Well DoneTim Burton; cast & crew~Jay Gabler it would appear lacks the capacity of being able to watch a movie simply for the sake of entertainment.  He obviously went into the movie theatre with a preconception of how he wanted the movie to play out and he was disappointed. It was a hell of a lot better than all the reviews I heard!!!! This is a perfect example of why the public should not base their opinions on the comments of others. Like the old saying..."opinions are like A_ _ holes every body has one".

Dark Shadows

Tim Burton should have stopped with Edward Scissor Hands. This movie lost its direction early on and rambled into nothing but a comic slasher flick.



being stupid

this movie is cofusin and dum i wud rather watch  dora for the rest of my life instead of watching this again