Skip to main content

Dark Shadows OR A Study in Awkwardness

Let it be known - there's probably going to be spoilers in this one. Read on at your own risk.

I love Tim Burton. His style is somehow richly colorful while often being very dark and beautifully spooky. He also has this great comic sensibility that few other directors pull off as endearingly. I love that he seems to live in some lovely fantasy world of his own, dropping into our's occasionally to share a slice of what he sees.

I also love and respect how he's continually giving great horror actors roles (some times their last.) His appreciation for these aging stars (like Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, and Jonathan Frid) is both charming and inspiring; I wish more directors made such an effort.

Now, this is not to say that I've loved everything Burton's ever done. I have some definite favorites: Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow, Sweeney Todd, Batman Returns, and Big Fish. I'd actually go so far as to write that Beetlejuice is one of my all time favorite movies. Hands down. There are snippets of dialog from that movie running through my head at any given time. ("In case of emergency, draw a door." or "If you don't let me gut out this house and make it my own, I will go insane, and i will take you with me!" or even "Please, they're dead. It's a little late to be neurotic.")

I actually feel like Burton has been in a bit of a slump recently, kind of 'phoning it in.' Which makes me sad. I don't know how much is pressure from above (i.e. studios say do X and he has to do it) or how much is that he's actually been uninspired. Which brings me to Dark Shadows.

Before I really get into the meat of my review, lets do a quick history lesson.

Dark Shadows was a soap opera in the late 60's-early 70's. While many people know where the show ended up (featuring vampires, werewolves, witches, time travel, and other assorted paranormal stuff.) most people don't know that the show started off fairly normally. When ratings started to drop the writers did something desperate - introduced a character that was a vampire (to spice things up.) He was only supposed to hang around for a few weeks but he became so damn popular that they just kept rolling with the supernatural elements.

The pacing was - throughout it's run - nearly painfully slow. The actors were stilted and awkward. Because they used the same actors (in some cases) for multiple roles, if you missed an episode you could become completely lost; one day someone is "uncle so and so" and the next they are "sir blah blah" and perhaps have a werewolf curse on them. Frustrating? Yeah. But also part of the show's weird charm. It was always an adventure.

I loved the show. I think it was Scifi (Syfy to you youngsters.) that aired it when I was in my teens and I watched it all the time. Religiously. I was in love. The show was disproportionately dramatic, weirdly engaging, and different than anything else on TV.

Dark Shadows also made it to the big screen a couple of times (in the early 70's.) And experienced a few brief revival attempts on TV. Now it's seeing new life at the hands of Time Burton. Sounds like a recipe for awesome, right?

Let's dig in.

Dark Shadows was like the culmination of Burton's best movies. The overall tone was campy and fun. It completely captured the awkwardness of the original show. There were definitely moments that made me laugh out loud and most of them included the always phenomenal Helena Bonham Carter; she definitely had some of the best quotes in the movie  ("Every year I get half as pretty and twice as drunk.") and when she goes down on Johnny Depp - hilarious.

The cast was great. I'm a Johnny Depp fan - I just can't help myself. He's a well - rounded and talent actor who throws himself into any role. He played a campy, awkward, and somehow fun-loving vampire with just a hint of anger beneath the surface.

Also. Bonus point to Tim Burton for getting Alice Cooper. I love when he turns up in movies.

I've heard complaints that the story was lacking. I felt more like it was 'wandering' than lacking. I imagine that's due, in part, to having to pull the double duty of introducing audiences to the story and covering material from some 400 or so episodes.

I think my only major complaint was the effects for the werewolf. The movie was wonderfully campy. The werewolf effects were just cheesy and childlike. Amateurish. They belonged in Burton's version of Alice in Wonderland, not in this movie.

Okay. It's late and now I'm beginning to wander so, it's wrap up time.

If you're not a fan of Dark Shadows or a fan of Tim Burton, do yourself a favor and don't see this one. But if you're looking for a colorful, cheeky romp through the 70's with Johnny Depp as your host - get to the theatre.

Popular posts from this blog

Rebuttal: 17 Disturbing Horror Movies You Will Never Watch Again

When I'm not watching movies, I'm reading about movies. I stumble across all kinds of articles, blog posts, book excerpts, etc. in my quest to absorb as much movie knowledge as possible.

Now, I'm snotty and loud-mouthed and opinionated but I'd never begrudge another human their opinion. Seriously. You're absolutely welcome to have any opinion about any thing you want. However, I must warn you, if I think your opinion is stupid, I'm absolutely going to say so.

I've recently stumbled on an article completely brimming with so many idiotic opinions that I'm actually compelled to craft a response.

Here's the gist of the original article: there are some horror movies out there that are so disturbing, you'll only ever want to watch them once. I've have taken her original list and refuted her claims without pulling her entire article over. You can read the original article here.

Let's start at the beginning, with her opening statement:
"Hor…

But The Flesh Is Weak: Cronenberg's Body Horrors

Body horror; something that effects each one of us as we are made of squishy, fallible, and finite flesh. Tackled many times in many ways throughout the years, body horror will stick with us until we finally learn to lose these weak, human bodies and begin existing in some other form.

There are many lenses through which to view body horror, lets talk about a few quickly before talking about some specific films in this genre.


Science and Technology
We depend on technology, especially in regards to our flimsy, fleshy bodies. Hip replacements, new hearts, brain surgery, iron lungs, cheek implants, etc. We have limited abilities and a limited lifespan, so we lean on technology to increase both. But what happens when we take that melding of mechanical and organic too far? Horror and scifi have taught us that going too far can lead to frighteningly devastating consequences and monstrous creations. (SpeciesRobocopFrankenstein, etc.)


Gender
Much of body horror is related to or revolves arou…

The Invitation (2015)

You know the drill - there's ALWAYS spoilers. Don't want the movie ruined for you? Come back after you've seen it.

And - I'm still without an editor - typos and bad grammar await you! Enjoy!

The Invitation is about an LA dinner party gone terribly wrong. Six couples pile into an extravagant house tucked away in the LA hills – as the night progresses suspicion, fake smiles, and traumatic memories turn their conversation from friendly to incredibly tense. Through flashbacks and terse snippets of character interaction we discover the ties binding each character to the others; one couple (Will and Eden) lost a child and some of the group have joined a self-help group that sounds like a cult. Hidden sexual desires are exposed and everyone is made to feel uncomfortable. In the end, folks become murderous and we realize that no amount of red velvet cake can make up for the loss of a child or combat years of brainwashing. 
The Invitation falls within the sub-genre of... killer…