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Title: Dark Shadows
Starring: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Eva Green, Michelle Pfieffer
Directed by: Tim Burton
Written by: Seth Grahame-Smith, John August
Studio: Warner Brothers
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 113 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: October 2nd, 2012

Movie: :3stars:
Video: :4stars:
Audio: :4.5stars:
Extras: :1.5stars:
HTS Overall Score:74.5

Tim Burton is known far and wide for his unique storytelling styles, both visually and script-based. He tends to be rather or hit or miss, unfortunately, but his movies still garner a very loyal fan base. We have the brilliantly done “Batman” movies compared to his bombs such as “Alice in Wonderland,” each employing his telltale Gothic veneer. I personally have enjoyed most of Burton’s films, even his flops, to some degree. He’s very unique in the film world and very rarely fails to entertain even if he doesn't wow the audience. “Dark Shadows” looked to be one of his more promising films from the trailer. Slightly dark and creepy with a goofy spin on the old TV series of the same name. What starts out as a very sinister and somber take on the source material soon fades into Burton’s goofy, over the top humor, only to be marred by a third act that takes itself too seriously.

Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) is a rich aristocrat who makes the mistake of toying with the heart of Angelique (Eva Green), one of the family servants. Unfortunately for him, Angelique happens to be a witch, and she places a curse upon Barnabas and his family. Soon after spurning her love, his parents are killed, his new love is murdered, and Barnabas himself is resurrected as a soulless vampire after casting himself from a cliff in despair. Not content to simply ruin him, Angelique turns the entire town against Barnabas and has him imprisoned in a coffin for over 200 years. Woken by an unwitting construction crew, Barnabas is set free in the year 1972 to find out what happened to his family and try to survive something even more terrifying than a love-and-revenge crazed witch….the pitfalls of modern society.

Barnabas stumbles his way back to the Collins mansion and discovers that he has 4 surviving relatives: Elizabeth Collins (Michelle Pfieffer), the icy cold Matriarch; David Collins (Gulliver McGrath), the young nephew who can see ghosts; Caroline Collins (Chloe Moretz), the rebellious teen daughter of Elizabeth; and Roger Collins (Johnny Lee Miller), the ner-do-well father of David. Convincing Elizabeth of his identity, Barnabas sets out to restore the family's wealth and prestige which has eroded over the last couple centuries by the aforementioned witch Angelique, who is continues to oversee the Collins family curse. To make matters worse, a complex young woman arrives to be governess to David, and she's the spitting image of Barnabas’ old flame, Josette.

I had high hopes for “Dark Shadows," but I came out just a tad disappointed. Tim Burton has a flair for interjecting humor into his darkness in a way that accentuates both. However, in this case, it felt as if Burton didn't know in which direction he wanted to take the film. In one scene, we have Barnabas ripping the throats out of 11 construction workers only to switch to making jokes and playing “captain Jack Sparrow” a little too often. The humor and the intense seriousness just seemed to clash and jerk the viewer from one end of the spectrum to the other.

Like usual, Tim Burton has cast Johnny Depp along with his favorite female co-star Helena Bonham Carter. Usually the two play off of each other well, but here Depp has taken the lead, and the long line of A-list actors tend to take a seat in the back, relegated to bit parts that don’t allow the actors to fully realize the potential of the characters. Pfieffer is excellent as the icy Matriarch, but is never fully allowed to flesh her out; Johnny Lee Miller looks as bored as one can be, and even Jackie Earl Hayley as the dimwitted groundskeeper fizzles out fairly quickly. About the only one of the supporting cast members that stood out was Chloe Moretz as the smart-alecky teenager. All of the pieces were there for a good story, but those pieces just could not seem to mesh together long enough to resonate with the viewer. It’s much less an issue of a poor story, but rather a lack of true direction in the film.


Rated PG-13 for comic horror violence, sexual content, some drug use, language and smoking

Video :4stars:

“Dark Shadows” presents us with an excellent 1.78:1 AVC image that is crisp and clean with only a few minor issues. While most of the film was exceptionally detailed and sharp, I found the greyish/green haze that Burton employs tended to soften some shots a little too much for my tastes. We would go from a scene where every pore in Johnny Depp’s makeup crusted face is there for us to see, to a sweeping forest shot that was so hazy that it made a startling contrast. I also noticed some minor banding pop up now and again, and while not prevalent or annoyingly common, it was still there. Colors are rich and luscious in this gothic presentation. Reds literally ooze through the screen, playing a wonderful contrast to the mass quantities of black that Burton is so famous for employing. Eva Green arrives at a ball in a sparkling red dress that literally pops off the screen. Other colors are rather limited, being that it is Tim Burton and he prefers a rather macabre, gothic feeling. Blues and greens are muted, but present while the two main colors are relegated to reds and blacks (however intentional it may be). "Dark Shadows" most certainly lives up to its name, for deep inky shadows abound throughout the picture. However, said shadows are detailed and lack the black crush that otherwise would have made this picture unviewable. Props to Warner brothers for another excellent encode.

Audio :4.5stars:

While the picture was excellent, the audio for “Dark Shadows” is superb. This is not a track that is aggressive and unrelenting, but rather a track that is aggressive when needed, but then retracts and becomes a subtle seduction. Footsteps, birds, ambient creaking of boards in an old mansion, all of them replicated beautifully without sounding “out of place” or overbearing. Thundering waves crash against the rocks sounding deep and fierce, while at the same time you can hear the whispering sound of cloth against skin. Channel separation is absolutely superb, the above mentioned ambient sounds flow from one speaker to the next effortlessly, totally enveloping and making you believe that you truly ARE in a Victorian style mansion; the groaning of floor board echoes behind your couch and the whispering of a ghost appears to be everywhere and nowhere at once. The LFE was excellent to say the least. Doors slam shut with a thunderous bang, waves are deep and low; never overbearing or overstaying its welcome, the LFE slides in and out of the track, only coming in when needed.

Extras: :1.5stars:

• Maximum Movie Mode
• Focus Points
• Deleted Scenes

Overall: :3.5stars:

“Dark Shadows” is a not a horrible movie by any means; its main flaw is not that it is done poorly, but that it is mediocre. Johnny Depp is great as Barnabas Collins, over-the-top and exaggerated as only he can pull off. Tim Burton tries to blend the macabre with his trademark slapstick, goofy humor, and unfortunately, it falls flat. The two styles clash horribly and make for a very stilted and uneven movie. However, one has to admit that Tim Burton can paint a gothic picture like no other, and fans of his particular style are sure to be pleased. So while I may not have loved the movie, I do think that it is worth a rental at the very least, and a must see for Burton fans, of course.

Buy Dark Shadows on Blu-ray

Recommendation: Rent It


Premium Member
4,363 Posts
Thanks for the review Mike. I thought this one was just ok but could have been much more. Depp is enjoyable in just about any role and enjoyed much of the first half of the movie. For me this one got a bit stale on the last half of the movie but I'd agree it's worth a rent.

Premium Member
52 Posts
Red-boxed this one over the weekend. I agree Johnny Depp has a way of making mediocre movies good!
We actually enjoyed this one (quite a bit more than I thought). The surprise appearance by a certain old-school rocker was a bonus. The wife suggests that this one becomes a buy; for some lighter-side Halloween viewings.
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