Title: Dark Shadows (2012)
Genre: Vampire Comedy
Watched: May 19, 2012
Summary: Why? Just why?
My dedication to all things vampire made me see it. I swear.
One wonders if Tim Burton ever works with anyone other than Johnny Depp. But the issue here isn’t really Depp’s deadpan Deppist performance, which is certainly one of the better things about the film. It’s basically in the meta creative choices and the writing. The source material is long, dramatic, or rather melodramatic, and convoluted. It involves stories being woven out over many episodes (1991) or years (2800 episodes of the original!). Any comedy was inadvertent.
Not so much here. There is no backstory. Instead, what happened between Barnabus in the 18th century (involving his affair with the witch Angelique and the subsequent death of his lover and conversion into vampire) is spelled out in a quick prelude. This is the best part of the film and the least comic. But its presence also leaves no room for any sense of mystery.
Then cut to 1972 and the awakening of our entombed hero. For a few moments the fish out of water comedy is funny, even if it’s all in the trailer. But that’s about it. There is pretty much zero character development here. The creators shove in a large number of characters from the original, even if in mutated form, but there is so much time spent with Depp that everyone else (with the possible exception of Angelique) is anemic at best. There isn’t even an attempt at a character arc for anyone. The conflict is minimal and simplistic. In fact, the movie devolves into a kind of “we have to save the family business” rivalry type film, even including one of my least favorite Hollywood devices: “everything can be fixed with a good party.” Which includes a 1972 Alice Cooper who looks exactly like 2012 Alice Cooper. But even the lame business conflict line is underwritten. The second half was just boring.
There are a few good moments of visual or deadpan humor, mostly involving slightly esoteric riffs to vampire fans. Willy’s character is good. Chloe Moretz is cute but stuck with perpetual curled lip. Eva Green is confused but sexy. Depp seems to have blended Jack Sparrow, Hunter S Thompson, and Max Schreck. I like what he does with his pointy fingered hands. He pivots up unnaturally out of his coffin. Many younger viewers will know this best from Coppola’s Dracula, but he too borrowed it from the 1922 Nosferatu. I liked the image of the vampire sleeping in the linen closet. These are small things, and definitely not enough to save the film.