, an American soap opera that originally aired in the early 70's, was the first TV show to meld serial drama with gothic horror, and thus set the stage for later supernatural soaps like Passions
or Buffy the Vampire Slayer
. (Whedon's Buffy was many things to many people, but it cannot be said that it was the first time on television that a mortal girl fell in love with a noble vampire.) The series enjoyed great success, and in the early nineties enjoyed a competent remake which was, unfortunately, derailed by the far more compelling televised spectacle of the fourth largest army in the world being bombed even farther back into the stone age by the USAF. For the following two decades, Barnabas Collins slept the cold sleep of many a vampire, until Tim Burton decided to dig him up again.
If Mr. Collins had any sense at all, he should have quenched his thirst right then and there.
Tim Burton, much like Barnabas, approaches us with his heart in the right place. Sadly, much like the vampire, it is a heart bereft of warmth and showing its age. Dark Shadows
, the movie, is a lavish and sexy nostalgia piece that can't decide if it wants to be a parody or a horror film, and consequently ends up being neither.
It isn't a BAD movie: nobody knows gothic like Burton, the cast is wonderful, and the soundtrack is often spot on. But ultimately, the film tries too hard to be too many things to too many people. Both the laughs and the scares are too few and far between, and often sabotage eachother's efforts to create an atmosphere in which they can flourish. The epic storyline of the TV series is predictably pruned to fit the time constraints of the film format, and (much like some of his other remakes) suffers from Burton's time-wasting, heavy-handed flashbacks and subplots that do little to further the story or build character in any visceral sense.
In the end, the movie fails, not for lack of ambition, but for too much of it. Two hours is simply not enough time to introduce an ensemble of personalities and make the audience care about them...especially if a fair percentage of that time is consumed by knowing winks to genre tropes, nostalgic musical interludes and the increasingly familiar comic efforts of Mr. Depp, whose befuddlement at arriving in the twentieth century, while endearing, ultimately undermines the power and nobility that Barnabas Collins' character demands. Worse, it left little time for what SHOULD have been the most important element of the film...the romance itself. All of the other elements of the film should revolve around the romance between Victoria and Barnabas, but instead they simply whirl around a void...or worse, the romance between Burton and Depp...leaving the viewer to be blown whichever way the whims of Tim take them.
This movie may still entertain those viewers who first cut their fangs on Hammer horror films and the original House of Dark Shadows
, or early gen x'ers who inexplicably miss the seventies, but I recommend saving your hard earned popcorn money for real treats like The Avengers
, or a far cleverer horror-comedy by the same director.
You waited twenty years for Barnabas to rise from the gave again. You can wait another few months until he makes it to Netflix.