Dark Shadows (2012)
By: Rip on December 27, 2012 | Comments
Roadshow | Region B | 1.78:1, 1080p | English DTS-HD MA 5.1 | 113 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Tim Burton
Starring: Johnny Depp, Eva Green, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Jackie Earle Haley
Screenplay: Seth Grahame-Smith
Country: USA
External Links
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Way back in the early 1970's, this reviewer was quite the fan and avid collector of American magazine, 'Famous Monsters Of Filmland'. Flicking through the pages of this sorely missed publication, I would encounter photographs of a vampire character who went by the name of Barnabas Collins and discovered that he was the central character of a very popular US television series entitled, Dark Shadows. As far as I can recall, this series was never screened here in Australia, at least not in Adelaide where I grew up, and 'Famous Monsters' magazine had me longing to see it, what with its numerous articles and pictures about the show and its unlikely star, Jonathan Frid. All these years later, the wait has ended, and with the advent of DVD, I'm now finally enjoying this wonderful series from the great Dan Curtis. So, when it was announced that director Tim Burton would be making a film version of Dark Shadows, I thought it a marriage made in heaven... until I saw the trailers. Sure, the original series was a Gothic soap opera, and often unintentionally funny, but it wasn't a comedy, and the trailers for the film version seemed to be sending it up. This had me feeling very disappointed and finally accepting that, after giving us some wonderful films in the past, Tim Burton really had lost his mojo.

Young Barnabas Collins' (Johnny Depp) formative years were not the best during the 18th century. The love of his life, Josette (Bella Heathcote) has jumped off a cliff against her will and Barnabas has leapt after her, only to discover that once he hits the bottom, he's been turned into a vampire by a witch named Angelique (Eva Green), who wants him all for herself.

Flash forward to 1972, and the Collins family, along with the rest of the world, has changed quite considerably since Barnabas' younger years. He discovers this for himself, as he escapes an Angelique-made tomb and meets the new inhabitants of his former house, young David (Gulliver McGrath), his father Roger (Jonny Lee Miller), Collins' matriarch (Michelle Pfeiffer), Carolyn (Chloë Grace Moretz), along with the groundskeeper, Willie Loomis (Jackie Earle Haley), and David's shrink, Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham-Carter). Barnabas doesn't have much time to adjust to his new surroundings though, as he's too busy simultaneously growing close to the manor's new governess, Victoria (also played by Bella Heathcote), who looks remarkably like Josette, and fending off a business mogul who just might be a rival from his past...

Director Tim Burton leans more toward humour rather than horror in Dark Shadows (though there is some horror), playing the film's basic premise for all its comic worth. Barnabas is a classic fish out of water, unfamiliar with headlights, the golden arches of McDonald's, television, and The Carpenters. The movie is very much both an ode to, and send-up of, the 1970s, although the era is run through Burton's gothic filter, with his trademark visual style and coming off not unlike his great, and somewhat under-rated, Sleepy Hollow. The period music is here (the soundtrack and song selection is admittedly great) and even Alice Cooper shows up to play himself, albeit forty years younger! It all adds up to some unexpected, though not unwelcome flavor, while establishing this as less a homage and more a spoof of the original TV series.

The cast are all terrific in their respective roles (especially Eva Green) and Johnny Depp is, as always, great fun as Barnabas Collins, with the part fitting him like a glove. His mannerisms, responses and confident awkwardness to the world around him are a joy.

Overall, I expected to dislike this film, but have to bite the bullet and admit that I did find it very entertaining. That said, I still think Burton should have played it straight.
Video
Warner's video presentation here is nothing short of fantastic and very much 'classic' horror in terms of its look. Even in dark shadows (!), the colours pop. The image is very sharp, full of excellent detail and framed in its original aspect ratio of 1:85. English subtitles are included for the Hearing Impaired. Full marks all around.
Audio
Likewise the audio. Two sound options are available, English DTS HD-MA and English Dolby Digital 5.1. The surrounds are very immersive and dialogue is perfectly clear. Danny Elfman's score sounds great, as do the period songs. Also included is an Audio Description track for the Vision Impaired.
Extra Features
A 'picture-in-picture' option is offered, which includes 'behind-the-scenes' material, 'making-of' footage, etc. These pieces can also be selected via a 'focus points' menu and viewed separately, however not all the content from the full feature 'focus points' is included in the 'focus points' menu. The more intensive individual 'focus points' can be selected during the movie or from the main menu. The specific 'focus points' are as follows:

Becoming Barnabas (5:23); Welcome To Collinsport (4:26); The Collinses - Every Family Has Its Demons (6:49); Reliving A Decade (4:54); Angelique - A Witch Scorned (2:58); Alice Cooper Rocks Collinswood (2:25); Dark Shadowy Secrets (3:53); A Melee Of Monstrous Proportions (3:59); Dark Shadows - The Legend Bites Back (2:05)

Also included are a selection of deleted scenes running at approximately 5 minutes and 2 trailers which feature on start-up.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
After initially having my doubts, I found Tim Burton's Dark Shadows to be something of a return to form by the director. Whilst it's not great per se, and doesn't come up to the standard of his past work, it's surprisingly good fun, and the cast appear to be having a ball, which does go a long way when it comes to enjoying the film for what it is. Warner's Blu-Ray is very impressive on the A/V front, which also helps. I'd suggest giving it a chance, but die-hard Dark Shadows fans will have to enter at their own risk.

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