Ain't It Cool News (
Movie News

Raven McCoy Didn't Really Fall Under The Spell Of DARK SHADOWS!!


Around this same time last year Johnny Depp starred in the unnecessary fourth chapter of the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN series. It was a boring, drawn out mess of a film and I’m pretty sure most people saw it simply to see Depp as Jack Sparrow again. Screw the story. Just give me Johnny Depp swishing around the screen with an accent and I’m good. That just has to be it. Well fear not, Depp fans, because this year we get Depp in DARK SHADOWS, another boring, drawn out mess of a film, only this time he’s doing it with the help of his longtime collaborator, Tim Burton.

Based on the 60s gothic soap opera of the same name, the film begins in the 1760s as a young Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) travels with his parents to America from Liverpool and begin a lucrative fishing empire in the New World.  As an adult, Barnabas is a bit of playboy who has a fiancée he cares deeply for, Josette, yet he carries on with a chambermaid by the name of Angelique (Eva Green).  When Angelique wants Barnabas to commit to her he denies her and Angelique uses witchcraft to curse Barnabas to live forever as a vampire after he watches Josette fall off a cliff to her death.  Angelique then leads a town mutiny against Barnabas causing him to be buried alive for 200 years.

In 1972 Barnabas is accidentally freed from his coffin and he returns to his family estate to find it in shambles. He resolves to restore the family business and get to know his family – Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer) and her reclusive, angsty daughter Carolyn (Chloë Moretz), her widowed philandering brother Roger (Jonny Lee Miller) and his disturbed son David, as well as David’s drunken live-in psychiatrist Dr. Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter) and the new governess Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcote). However as Barnabas attempts to revive the family business he finds that his biggest competition is led by the ever youthful Angelique and she still has it out for him. As Barnabas fights for his family’s business he also finds himself falling for Victoria, who bears a close resemblance to his beloved Josette.

DARK SHADOWS starts out well enough as they delve into Barnabas’ backstory and Angelique’s witchcraft craziness setting the gothic tone for the rest of film. As usual, Depp fits the part of playing a kooky outsider trying to get used to “normal” society and watching him get acclimated with all that is the 70s like troll dolls, roads, television and lava lamps is quite amusing at first. However this carries on for well over an hour and the novelty wears off quickly.  Once you get past Barnabas’ readjustment that’s when the film nosedives and the disjointed storylines become apparent.

Pfeiffer is said to be the head of the household and family business but does little else than make grand poses at the top of a staircase. Moretz is merely there to provide the film’s 70s soundtrack and has an absurd twist late in the game. There is some kind of story developing between Dr. Hoffman and Barnabas as she helps him in his efforts to become “human” so he can be with Victoria but that is hardly expanded and cut short rather quickly begging the question “why did they even bother?” Miller is ever so slightly personified as a hedonistic and money grubbing absentee father but he hardly does anything in the film besides sit at the dinner table or stare out a window. Even when there’s a hint that he might have a chance at playing a larger role in the story it turns out to be false and he continues on doing nothing. He shouldn’t even have been in the film.

Barnabas’ supposed budding romance with Victoria is rarely ever focused on as he’s barely seen spending any kind of time with her and Victoria’s hardly in the movie to begin with. She appears mysteriously, pops in and out during the “romance”, not once actually shown caring for David, and isn’t even there for the climax! During the film’s climatic battle I couldn’t help but wonder “where the fuck is Victoria in all this?” The film also alludes to her having some kind of connection to Josette which makes the timing of her appearance at the Collin’s manor very curious and somewhat intriguing but it’s never explored and any kind of supernatural importance she might have disappears.


I will admit that the scenes with Green were some of the more enjoyable ones as she seemed to be one of the few people who, besides Depp, had fun giving an over-the-top, campy performance. Her aggressive love-hate relationship with Barnabas was the only story that is expanded upon and carried on throughout the entire film, making it somewhat interesting to watch. However their violent and destructive love scene is anything but titillating or even funny.

Looking back on DARK SHADOWS, I thought it might have been some campy, 70s supernatural film but now I find that I can’t actually nail down what type of movie it is. It’s not entirely a comedy or drama and it’s not entirely campy or scary. It lingers somewhere in between all that without actually being anything at all. It just is what it is and what it is isn’t great, which makes me a bit worried for ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER. Seth Grahame-Smith, author and screenwriter of AL:VH, penned the script for DARK SHADOWS and with it bouncing around from subplot to subplot and various genres without actually developing the characters or creating any kind of emotion besides boredom towards the story, I really hope this isn’t an indicator of what we can expect from AL:VH. I am a big fan of the book and if he treats his own material this way then we are in store for a very disappointing movie this June.

There is a reason DARK SHADOWS was a TV show and not a movie. With so many stories trying to be told, two hours isn’t enough to properly develop them.  They should be spread out over episodes, giving them time to grow and make the audience care. By condensing everything we’re given a film that fails to come together into any kind of cohesive or rich story and instead only serves to add yet another incoherent and dull movie to Depp and Burton’s filmography.


-Raven McCoy

Follow me on Twitter!

Readers Talkback
comments powered by Disqus
    + Expand All
  • May 11, 2012, 12:56 p.m. CST

    Eva Green

    by TheMachinist

    guarantees asses in seats. Pairing that with vampires, which this is obviously exploiting...

  • May 11, 2012, 1:02 p.m. CST

    Time wasn't the real issue with this steaming pile.

    by Paul Paradis

    You could have given Burton and his boyfriend Depp four hours to flesh things out more, and they'd have still made a incoherent campy mess of things.

  • Also, Blackbeard was a great character and the mermaids were an interesting take on this creature of the sea. Plus, Penelope Cruz's ample cleavage all added up to a good time, imo.

  • That film based on the series and using the original cast absolutely rocks as a gothic vampire movie...and it's a movie...not a compiled scenes from the series. It really is awesome...and that's what i thought Burton was going to do. ...but Burton decided to do his usual goth-comedy regurgitation.

  • May 11, 2012, 1:12 p.m. CST

    Seems like everyone has the exact same critcisms

    by Jaster Mareel

    That generally spells doom.

  • And that's all I have to say about that.

  • May 11, 2012, 1:20 p.m. CST

    a bit worried for ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER???

    by Samuel Fulmer

    I'd be worried by the title alone. Sounds like Troma shit, and yeah I know it's a book.

  • May 11, 2012, 1:21 p.m. CST

    Pirates 4 was way better than 3

    by disfigurehead

    3 was one of the worst piles of shit i have ever seen.

  • If she ends up in his next film, but Bonham-Carter doesn't, then you know that I win the bet.

  • May 11, 2012, 1:28 p.m. CST

    Depp+Carter+Burton= zzzzzzzzz.....

    by LargoJr

    Someone actually expected anything other then shit from these 3? I like Pfeiffer... but I'm not even interested in seeing this when it's inevitably on HBO.. no fucking thank you

  • May 11, 2012, 1:29 p.m. CST

    Oh... and saying Prates 4 is an improvement on Pirates 3...

    by LargoJr

    ... is like saying "Hey! At least THIS time when the hooker shat on my chest.. she didn't set it on fire!"

  • May 11, 2012, 1:32 p.m. CST

    Sod it being unrepresentative of the film as a whole

    by tomdolan04

    The marketing should put that snap above of Eva Green with that playful 'come fuck with me' look flashing some leg front and centre of your advertising. <p> Out of all the coverage on this site of the film, THAT picture is the only thing thats raised a smile from me about the project. <p> Is that the time. I must go, I think I've left my oven on. And by oven, I mean DVD copy of the Dreamers.

  • May 11, 2012, 1:40 p.m. CST

    I'm still gonna see this, lol. So are you.

    by Tikidonkeypunch

    Otherwise you really can't bitch about it.

  • May 11, 2012, 2:02 p.m. CST

    No I ain't, donkeypunch....and here's why.

    by Cheif Brody

    NOBODY GIVES A FUCK!! <p> I was a 3 year old when Dark Shadows came out. Too young to watch it then...and upon further review in my teens, it was even less of a draw. It was a brooding, boring, melodramatic piece of kisch that I never once felt was compelling enough to give it more than 5 minutes of my time. Like most soap operas, ya just "had to be there" from the beginning to truly follow all the quirky goings on...and I was even into vampires at the time. But watching that awful show (live bloopers didn't help)...I couldn't believe it when I saw this film got green lit...solely on Depp's & Burton's involvement alone. <p> Who is this film directed at? The people old enough to appreciate bringing Barnabus back to the screen are fucking DEAD...or in nursing homes now....or, at the very least, are NOT the core demographic for going OUT to the movies. <p> And today's kids have no idea what the fuck a Dark Shadow is. That leaves people like me...who kinda remember it...maybe their mom watching it....but couldn't give two shits about revisiting that show. Then for Burton to shit the bed...and not aim it at ANYONE...not the 'remaining' core fans...or today's youth... well... <p> Let's just say it'll be a long while before Burton & Depp get another movie green lit just because they are teaming up again. This mess is gonna TANK this weekend. Avengers will RULE. <p> FACT!

  • How interesting!

  • May 11, 2012, 2:04 p.m. CST

    tomdolan04, when are they going to release a Dreamers Blu-Ray?

    by Joe Plumber

    I would love a Criterion Edition with lots of cut scenes and behind the scenes footage Eva Green nudity.

  • May 11, 2012, 2:18 p.m. CST

    "It just is what it is and what it is isn’t great..."

    by successor

    Are you trying to give Harry Knowles a run for his money in the most convoluted sentence department?

  • When he dumped Lisa for Helena while making PotA, Burton seems to have lost something. Eva's scenes are the only things that work in the trailer. Raven's review about the reincarnated GF disappearing, the father moping around but nothing explored further, makes me now wonder if there are about 20 minutes missing from this film. I'm having flashbacks to the disasterous Jonah Hex.-----later-----m

  • May 11, 2012, 2:48 p.m. CST

    Pirates 4 was very enjoyable

    by thot

    Especially compared to the bloated mess that pt. 3 was. I've enjoyed the whole series but "On Stranger Tides" helped return the franchise to what made the first one so much fun.

  • May 11, 2012, 4:19 p.m. CST

    @buckethead50 - NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

    by captaincosmos

    Say it isn't so! The Phibes movies and Kolchak: The Night Stalker... two of my favorite properties from my youth. If Depp (and Burton on Phibes) fuck either of these up, I will be so fucking... Aw, whatever. At least I have the originals on DVD. Fuck these guys who say they have such supposed reverence for these properties, only to take big steaming dumps on them when given the chance to do a remake.

  • May 11, 2012, 4:41 p.m. CST

    how movies get made:

    by j_difool

    so many small course corrections are made by the execs during the making of a movie, that whatever creative concept or impulse kicked off the thing to begin with is complete lost by the time the final product is done. from the outset though, no matter what they might say to peoples' faces, or in publication, no finance person is gonna embrace a true homage to Dark Shadows, a 40 year old show with a niche audience -- unless the plan from the get-go is to forget all about what made the show the show, and just re-team the money-making combo of Depp and Burton with some raggedy-ass jokes that people in Peoria and Beijing will find palatable.

  • May 11, 2012, 4:56 p.m. CST

    lemme guess what the "twist" is...

    by TheSeeker7

    Hmm... at least one of the family member is ALSO a vampire?

  • from Burton and Depp. I mean, I know it was flawed (due mostly to Seth Grahme cracker's pants script) but I dug it -Namaste-

  • May 11, 2012, 5:09 p.m. CST

    theseeker7 - close, but no cigar

    by Dharma4


  • May 11, 2012, 5:55 p.m. CST

    AL:VH has me really pumped by the trailer

    by Jared Bond

    Screw the book, just give me Lincoln kicking vampire ass in between giving cordial speeches about freedom and keeping the Union together. (In essence, everything Spielberg's movie will have, except 10 times more badass.)

  • May 11, 2012, 5:59 p.m. CST

    "This isn't your FATHER's Abraham Lincoln!"

    by Jared Bond

  • May 11, 2012, 6:33 p.m. CST

    Tim Burton has become a self-indulgent bore.

    by HaterofCrap

    how many times can a director put his kooky wife in his films before he gets called out as self-indulgent? i mean, fuck. she's in every damn one of his movies! and the movies are all bloated pieces of shit.

  • Shit..its such crass mentality and morass that I bet Helena had a pre-nuptuial with "burton"..."sex" for roles in everyone of his films...

  • I don't think there was a Marvel or Disney exec who are disappointed or screwed with Whedon's fim at all. And there was over ($)200 Million ways to fuck up that film. <p> Nobody...but nobody was disappointed with what got put up on that big screen. <p> Altho I'm sure there's a few studio execs who are trying to claim that it was THEIR idea to have HULK unexpectedly punch THOR out of the frame for no reason whatsoever. <p> Except, of course, that you can't control The can only hope to contain him.

  • May 11, 2012, 8:57 p.m. CST

    Burton & Depp once again raping our 70s childhood

    by pixelmagic

    Is there anything from the 70s they don't have the rights to? Who has the rights to Hot Wheels at this point? I think that's the only thing left. Anyway, Depp is not an interesting actor. All I see when he's on screen is an androgynous Pretty Boy. And doesn't the advertising look like it's another Addams Family movie?

  • May 11, 2012, 10:20 p.m. CST

    Avengers predicted to make 95 million this weekend.

    by Quake II

    Dark Shadows predictions put it around 25-30 million tops. Whatever happens I don't see Shadows appealing to anyone other than the hardcore Depp/Burton fans. The general public has no interest in this film. I'll see it in the cheap theater next month or rent it on Blu in 4 months.

  • May 12, 2012, 12:41 a.m. CST

    eva green is so rape worthy


    and i feel like she would like to be raped.

  • May 12, 2012, 4:54 a.m. CST

    Whilst I agree Dark Shadows doesn't very good at all

    by tomdolan04

    One thing that get's raised with again and again with movies like this is the pumped up self-importance of movie journalists. <p> I'm not focusing on you Raven but generally critics and reviewers tend to love to rip into a movie because being snarky is easier than being genuine and non-so more than for this film. You can 'feel' it on this site and others at the moment - WE GET TO RIP INTO BURTON AND DEPP LOLZ. We get to think up and type sarcastic and bitter comments that show what good journalists we are haha'. It's almost like some misinterpret their title as 'critic' to mean that they have to criticizing because it makes them look clever. <p> I have no particular affinity to either and the movie looks shitty so sure call a spade a spade- but it's the way a significant (however certainly not all) proportion of journalists in movie and other fields delight in failure more so than hearlding success.

  • thought of what must pass for a woman in that nerd mind's eye.

  • May 12, 2012, 9:31 a.m. CST

    Here's that same Eva Green pic from above...EMBIGGENABLE!

    by Cheif Brody

    Yummy screen saver size. Now...If I can just crop out Depp.

  • May 12, 2012, 9:31 a.m. CST

    by Cheif Brody

  • I was at the preview. Seth says there was another script in that was a lot darker and explored the occult/magic aspect of the tv show. I'd like to see that movie. I had the sinking feeling Seth wasn't all that familiar with the tv show. He bragged how the (spoiler alert) CGI heart being offered to Barnabas was Eva Green's idea. That was just lame. Yeah, don't let actors tell your story. Liked it, but didn't love it.

  • ... it does get slow mid-way through and I think it's just an editing issue that made the film boring for some chunks. I've watched it three times and I hold no ill-will for the film and I look forward to a fifth installment.

  • May 12, 2012, 7:47 p.m. CST

    I'm 45 minutes in right now...

    by OhioBobcat

    ...and as someone who is in the middle of rewatching the entire original series, I have no problems (so far) whatsoever. Right off the bat they let us know that "Victoria Winters" is really Maggie Evans, so there goes my problem with Vicki being Josette like in the revival series. Its pretty clear that EVERYONE studied the original characters, as the Barnabas, Angelique, Vicki, David, Roger, Carolyn and ESPECIALLY Elizabeth characters are pretty damn spot on in terms of vocal patterns. I'm not entirely sold on Mrs. Burton's Julia, but we'll see. It seems to me that most all of the so-called problems with story and pacing and not-comedy/not-drama are all very realistic and non-revisionist complaints that could be said of the original series as well. Whether or not it's a good film as a film, it's a pretty accurate representation of the feel of the source material if you look past any emotional-rationalizations of what it really was. Now let's see if I change my mind with over half the film to go still...

  • May 12, 2012, 7:55 p.m. CST

    Spoke too soon...

    by OhioBobcat

    ...about Julia. The lava lamp seen and on is a spt on Grayson Hall.

  • May 12, 2012, 9:47 p.m. CST

    The Collins Family

    by The Alienist

    The worst thing he did, and I sorta liked the first half of the film, but what he did that fucking pissed me off was how he treated some of the characters. Roger and Julia. Without giving away anything, they deserved better. Imagine the outcry if a director had fucked over a beloved Trek character like this. Now, DS's secondary characters are nowhere near as iconic as Trek's, but still, they mean something to us old fans. And it was rotten what he did to them.

  • May 13, 2012, 5:46 p.m. CST

    The summer is over before it got started

    by Atomic_Crusader

    Looks like another record setting summer where the studios make more money than ever before with utterly forgettable movies. Avatar 2 and 3 await. Absolutely nothing new in movies these days, nothing.

  • May 13, 2012, 7:25 p.m. CST

    I almost fell asleep.

    by Shaun1138

    I watched it this weekend. Almost fell asleep in the first act. Glad I received a gift card to the movie theater. I didn't pay for this one! Wish I could get the two hours of my life back.

  • May 13, 2012, 7:36 p.m. CST

    Raven, your review is spot on.

    by Wolfman Nards

    There are so many subplots that aren't peoperly developed at all it makes you wonder what the fuck was going on in the editing room. The werewolf surprise at the end is fucking embarrassing. Eva Green is ridiculously hot though so there you go.

  • You fucking all saw that in the trailers a thousand times in the last month. Fuck you.

  • May 13, 2012, 7:46 p.m. CST

    Pirates 4 was beyond awful for me

    by Winston Smith

    One of the worst mainstream films I've ever seen. I also hated, loathed, whatever you wanna call it Pirates 3. I loved the first 2 Pirates though, the first was incredibly clever and deserved the success it had and the 2nd film is still one of the most fun and epic adventures I've seen on the big screen since the 80s era of Indy and Star Wars. So it amazes me when people say all the sequels sucked, or 4 was better than 2 and 3. I'd give 3 a slight edge over 4 because it had a few inventive visual moments, and 4... my god... it was just DULL. There was no real sense of conflict or rising tension. Sparrow in 4 (as in most of 3) is not only unfunny, but he's forced to spout off a lot of story dialogue that just bogs everything down. The "new" characters were terrible except for Blackbeard, but even there despite a good performance the script didn't really make him a threat or give us any stakes. And beyond all that, it just wasn't fun. There were no big colorful moments where each cliffhanger tops the last like in the 2nd film. I'll give #4 this, it doesn't have 20 minutes of discussion on pirate law, but it's also the most boring film visually, with useless 3D.

  • May 13, 2012, 7:48 p.m. CST

    Also, Pirates 4

    by Winston Smith

    ... to be more like #1, it's not about making it "smaller" in scope. Fuck that shit. #1 is still by far the best script because it's CLEVER. It's quotable. It's funny. There's wit to the dialogue, and Sparrow is a genuinely interesting and charismatic character. 2 lost some of this, but the scope of #2 was 10-fold any of the other films and really matched Lord of the Rings in a lot of way, so I was able to forgive a little bit of slapstick and leaden dialogue that would define #3 and #4 that were neither epic nor clever.