When Tim Burton and Johnny Depp decided, "Oh, wouldn't it be fun to make a movie out of the campy '60s TV show Dark Shadows," the correct response should have been the following three words: Wild Wild West.
Apparently no one had the stones to say that to Burton or Depp, whose inflated reputations rest on their box-office clout, much more than their artistic vision. And so we have Dark Shadows, as dreary a big-budget extravaganza as you're likely to see this year (unless Michael Bay springs a movie on us unexpectedly).
Dark Shadows is all the argument you need for staging some sort of couples' intervention on Depp and Burton. Yes, I know -- they made Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Ed Wood and Sweeney Todd, all worthy films. On the other hand, they made the middling Sleepy Hollow, the execrable Alice in Wonderland and now this piece of mirthless kitsch. So it's really a wash, wouldn't you say? Time to move on and stop enabling this kind of pop-culture junk.
Big, loud, lavish and flat, Dark Shadows was written by Seth Grahame-Smith, who came up with the one-joke idea of mash-ups blending classic literature and history tales blended with horror-movie tropes, like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. The witless script here doesn't bode well for Grahame-Smith's screen adaptation of his own Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Killer.
That's because virtually all of the jokes in Dark Shadows are DOA. They're either trite (an 18th-century vampire wakes up in 1972 and is mystified by cars and TV -- how clever) or simply flat (let's have that vampire say "Kiss my ass" in formal 18th-century language). And the horror? Forget it -- too jokey. And the jokes? Not nearly jokey enough.
Tricked out like a gothic romance, Dark Shadows chronicles the early plight of Barnabas Collins (Depp), scion to a rich fish-cannery family in pre-Revolutionary War Maine. The family is so dominant that the town is called Collinsport; their lavish mansion is called Collinwood. But Barnabas runs afoul of a witch named Angelique (Eva Green), whose love he doesn't return. So she kills his parents, casts a spell on the woman he loves (Bella Heathcote) that causes her to throw herself off a cliff -- and then turns Barnabas into a vampire and rats him out to the townsfolk, who entomb him alive.
The vampire lore is incredibly half-assed here.
This review continues on my website.