After hitting the movies with the Queen last night to catch Tim Burton and Johnny Depp’s Dark Shadows, I walked away thinking that someone in the Warner Brothers marketing department needs a serious wrist slap. When the film fails at the box office this summer, I guarantee it will be in large part because of the absolutely absurd marketing campaign that pushed the film as some sort of fish out of water comedy rather than the genuinely gothic film the creators puts together.
By now you’ve likely seen those trailers, the ones that show Depp’s vampire Barnabas Collins awakening from a 200 year imprisonment to find that it’s 1972. Having seen the film, it’s just so clear that, as co-star Helena Bonham Carter predicted, the studio just didn’t know what to do with the film. It’s not a straight comedy, drama or horror flick. What it is, though, is far better than the trailers or the reviews have implied.
Of course, reviews are always subjective. I have no affinity for the old 60’s soap, so whether or not the film holds true to the original, I can’t judge. What I can say is that I found the film to be wholly entertaining and far, far darker than I expected it to be. Ghosts, witches and more haunt Dark Shadows consistently, and we’re surrounded by flawed and dark characters, including Gulliver McGrath as 10-year old David Collins and Bella Heathcote’s Victoria Winters. Chloe Grace Moretz turns in a great performance as teenage Carolyn Stoddard – one of her earliest scenes is at dinner when the family is gathered and Carolyn has Donovan’s Season of the Witch on the turntable. It’s a little strange watching Hit Girl play it sexy, I have to admit, but I still found Moretz to be one of the film’s standouts.
As for the leads, both Johnny Depp and Eva Green are a lot of fun to watch on screen as Barnabas Collins and his nemesis, Angelique, respectively. Green is enticingly evil – her character is sexy and seductive and you can see why Barnabus has a hard time saying no to her at times. Meanwhile, Depp is great onscreen at the vampire Collins. He’s also not a good guy – something that the trailers never let on to. The cool thing about the film and the character is he’s an old school vampire – that means nobody, other than family, is safe from his bite.
Dark Shadows certainly has it’s issues – there are some serious plot holes throughout the film, and it doesn’t have the visual flare that one would expect from a Tim Burton film. But unlike the opinions of many critics, I didn’t find that the film dragged at all. It’s less than two hours, has some decent laughs and strong performances from all involved (including Helena Bonham Carter and Michelle Pfeiffer, who I didn’t mention above). Sadly, along with the misleading trailers, Dark Shadows was released at the wrong time of year, and not just because it’s about to be trampled by the Avengers. Rather, this is a perfect October film, and one that I bet would have found the audience that will miss it this summer blockbuster season. I fully expect to see a DVD release right in time for Halloween.
Unless the same marketing genius behind the trailers has their say, that is. Regardless, Dark Shadows will be worth your time whenever you see it.