Dark Shadows markets itself as the darker, sexier Addams Family, and while distinguishing itself with its soap-infused plot, it fails to truly thrill or charm the viewer. TimBurton, coming off his biggest mainstream hit, Alice in Wonderland, once again branches out of his comfort zone (otherwise known as the quirky chills we’ve been used to seeing from him) with this adaption of the popular 60’s soap of the same name. He assembles an all-star cast in addition to the usual Burton suspects, Johnny Depp (Alice in Wonderland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), as well as wife Helena Bonham Carter (Alice in Wonderland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). Joining them are Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick Ass, Let Me In), Michelle Pfeiffer (Batman Returns, Harispray) , Eva Green (Casino Royale, Perfect Sense), and a new find, Bella Heathcote, who recently won the Heath Ledger scholarship award in Australia.
When the vampire Barnabus Collins gets into a lover’s quarrel with a witch (gentlemen: never a good idea), she imprisons him in a coffin for 200 years. When awakened, he returns to the Collins mansion to find a new family there, and surprise, surprise, the witch, Elizabeth Stoddard is back. His descendants feature a moody teenage Carolyn, and young David, who’s seeing ghosts, as well as David’s governess, Victoria Winters, and the family psychiatrist, Dr. Julia Hoffman- both have more to them then they seem. As he further discovers this 20th century era, he learns that perhaps the Collins Manor needs more of his help than he realizes.
Dark Shadows does try- but Burton, for the first time, seems to be holding back. His melodrama isn’t melodramatic enough, the spook not spooky enough, and the camp not campy enough. The whole movie is a compilation of half-dones, and so Burton constantly misses the mark; although, to be fair
, the mark was small enough to begin with. It’s not a bad movie. It’s interesting, to say the least, and the cast is top-notch (with the exception of Moretz; she’s great in everything she does, but at only fifteen, her character’s sexuality feels a bit provocative). The art direction and visuals are vibrant, and the 70’s as a backdrop creates a pleasing contrast to the Victorian characters.
Some moments exude Burton’s typical twisted fare, a few scenes wicked black comedy and others, like the climactic cliff scene, thrilling in the way only Burton can pull off. If you’re looking for a last-minute rental choice, I’d recommend it, but for better light horror/camp, see The Addams Family Values or pretty much any other Tim Burton movie.