I expected to like this movie. I wanted to like this movie. At the theater, I tried to like this movie, but I couldn’t pull it off.
Dark Shadows was a gothic soap opera that ran from 1966 – 1971. As a child, Johnny Depp wanted to be Barnabas Collins, a 200 year old vampire. He got his wish, but sadly, not even a cast with Depp, Michelle Pfieffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Christopher Lee, and Alice Cooper can save a movie that doesn’t know what it wants to be.
Comedy blends well with horror – think of Young Frankenstein or Ghostbusters – but Dark Shadows blows it at several crucial points. In one scene, the vampire seeks out a group of wide-eyed hippies. He asks them about love and romance and then slaughters them – after we get to like them. That’s a bush-league scripting error! A screenplay can kill people we care for, but it cannot do so and hope to remain funny. The rest of the comic riffs fall flat after this.
I bonded more with the hippies than with the characters I was supposed to care about. The brave orphan, the confused adolescent girl, and the etherial love interest remain distant and two dimensional. Barnabas never charms in the manner of Captain Jack Sparrow.
The love scene between Barnabas and the witch attempts to be wild and kinky but doesn’t get beyond the special effects. The final battle is won by a ghostly deus-ex-machina. The vampire wiggles his fingers, signifying hypnosis, and a mob of cops and townspeople do his bidding. The plot is full of holes and unanswered questions.
We were in the mood for a gothic movie, and now I wish we had chosen The Raven. Dark Shadows ends with a lead-in to a sequel which I do not intend to see. Save your money on this one.