Tue 21 Oct 2014
When Tim Burton and Johnny Depp come together one already knows what to expect. Dark Shadows is the 8th film directed by Burton with Depp in the cast, the first one being Edward Scissorhands from 1990, maybe the most famous of all. We already know that a fantastic and strange world of weird beauty and ugliness will be created on screen. We know that it will be scary but that we need not take it more serious than necessary because we are now adults and fairy tales do not scare us any longer (do they?). We also know that Depp will again be hard to recognize, but will be himself as well, another entry in a series of fantastic characters that we – who love the actor – wish will last for as long as possible.
‘Dark Shadows’ is inspired by a TV show which gained cult status in the late 60s and early 70s which I have never seen or heard about before. It starts as a Gothic witches and vampires story in the 18th century to continue as a back-from-grave witches and vampire comical action in the contemporaneity of the TV show. Tim Burton and his script writers chose the path of creating from the perspective of 2012 a retro-actual comedy combined with situation gags about the culture, revolts and music of the 70s including a cameo appearance of Alice Cooper. These are actually some of the funniest moments in the film, as the rest of the story is pretty conventional and does not exceed the level of a mediocre comics-inspired intrigue.
Acting-wise we have of course Depp, as pale and as weird as ever. Besides Depp the film is blessed with exquisite cast including Michelle Pfeiffer which unfortunately seems lately to fade away from important roles, Eva Green which has a love scene like you never saw on screens before with Depp, and Helena Bonham Carter which I wish had spent more time on screen. And yet, despite moments of fun and splendid visuals that only the imagination of Burton can create, something is missing in the script. I did not see the TV show, and yet I had a very strong feeling of deja vu which could not be completely balanced by acting and spectacular visuals. A movie relying only or mostly on visual effects, as perfect as they may be, risks to feel like unfinished.