Dark Shadows – Blu-ray Review

Johnny Depp dreamed of playing Barnabas Collins and returning to Collinwood.  What happened?  I had waves of fear as I saw more and more of the production; sadly I had something to be fearful of.  Longtime fans of the show may not much like Depp Shadows, but Depp and vampire fans might find something to enjoy.

In the 1770s, Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) seduces maid Angelique (Eva Green) but also finds his true love in Josette (Bela Heathcote).  This leads to him rejecting Angelique; this doesn’t go over very well since she is a witch.  She uses her black arts to get revenge against Josette and curse Barnabas by turning him into a vampire.   She gets the village to turn against Barnabas and bury him a metal coffin for all eternity.  1972 finds Victoria Winters (Heathcote) traveling to Collinwood answering an advertisement for a nanny. 

The once proud Collins estate is occupied by down-on-their-luck Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer), her greasy brother Roger (Jonny Lee Miller), her daughter (Chloe Grace Montez), and Roger’s son David (Gulliver McGrath).  David is who Victoria is to care for, but he’s also under the care of psychiatrist Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helen Bonham Carter) because he sees dead people. 

The grounds are also prowled by the drunken handy man Willy Loomis (Jackie Earle Haley) and elderly maid Mrs. Johnson (Ray Shirley).  When a construction crew unearths Barnabas’ coffin then a polite but bloodthirsty vampire is also on the prowl and hoping to reverse the Collins’ fortunes. 

I’d say I’m more of a casual fan of the old show.  I’ve not seen all the episodes but I know enough to say that Dark Shadows did not begin with Barnabas Collins, but his introduction brought the show to new heights.  It even spawned two movies in the 1970s and a revival of the show in the 1990s got staked by the writer’s strike (there’s another revival pilot out there but I’ve not seen it).

There was still life in the old undead aristocrat yet.  It was exciting to know that box office star Johnny Depp was going to bring Barnabas back to the big screen and had even recruited Tim Burton, his constant collaborator, to helm it. 

Set pictures leaked and I wondered why Depp’s makeup was so cartoonish, then an official picture put me at ease, then the trailer made me wonder why the show was a comedy, and finally seeing the movie had me only halfway liking the film. 

The original show was played dead serious with comedy perhaps being unintentional.  The show as shot at a breakneck pace and if something fell off the wall the actors just ignored it and kept on going.  Somehow that translated into turning this movie into a dark comedy, if only the jokes weren’t so stale.  The show actually started with Victoria Winters and played roughly 199 (daily, half hour) episodes before the vampire rose. 

In the movie, Victoria (as well as several other characters) seems forgotten by Barnabas’ plotline.  It certainly needed more character time and not just focusing on one vampire, even if he brought the show to popularity.  Certainly, several lame jokes could’ve been cut out and more character beats added.  When the show revived they set the new show in modern times, but with the movie they decided to make it a 1970s period piece.  Can’t say that helped either.  There are many warts, but it is still a well-produced film but I can’t say that it is Dark Shadows

Dark Shadows is presented in a 1080p transfer (1.85:1).  Special features include Maximum Movie Mode which features cast and crew in a picture-in-picture box, you can also access the 37 minutes of focus points featurettes using during this mode separately, and 6 minutes of deleted scenes.  You also get a DVD and digital copy. 

Sometimes vanity projects work, but I think Depp Shadows tried to make this revival into something akin to the Brady Bunch movie.  It wasn’t as rotten as the Wild Wild West movie, but die-hard Dark Shadows fans may think so.  It is still a missed opportunity, although a well-made one.  I won’t drive a stake through it entirely (that I’d reserve for Wild Wild West, which was horrible) but I can’t say that it got my heart pumping either.  Your mileage may vary. 

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Note the date on this article may be incorrect due to importing it from our old system.