Thursday, May 31, 2012

Dark Shadows: bite me



I am just a bit too young to have watched "Dark Shadows" on TV. Savannah and I watched a few episodes on Netflix and decided we'd check out the Tim Burton-directed flick over the holiday weekend.

I have a tendency to laugh very loudly at things I think are funny, even when the rest of the audience doesn't. I laughed quite a bit. I hesitate to call "Dark Shadows" a comedy, though. It's funny--and funny on purpose, unlike what I've seen and heard of the gothic soap opera that spawned it--but just being funny doesn't mean your movie is a comedy. And just because your movie has vampires, witches, werewolves, and ghosts doesn't mean it's a horror movie.

So what, exactly, is "Dark Shadows"?  I refuse to use the label "gothic-lite." The phrase sickens me. But I can't think of anything else. The majority of Burton's films could fall under that category. So maybe I should bite the bullet and accept the label. Or maybe it is sufficient to say. "Tim Burton makes this kind of movie," and move on.

There is a lot to like in this movie and my wife and I are proof that you don't have to have been in love with the series to enjoy it. Johnny Depp's Barnabas Collins is not unlike many of his other characters: a quirky gentleman out of his time/place. He's funny but not cheesy. He's debonair but a vicious killer. The real gems, however, are in the cast around him.

This is the part where things get weird for me. Playing 15-year-old Caroline, Chloe Grace Moretz shines in her limited screen time. She radiates teen angst and come-hither jailbait hotness. She's perfectly cast as daughter to Michelle Pfieffer's Elizabeth. If Moretz ages half as well and Pfieffer, she's going to have another 30 years or more of A-list acting.

There isn't a weak point in the cast, actually. Everyone does his or her job, even Johnny Lee Miller.

My favorites bits of the film were the glass/egg crackling effect used as the witch Angelique meets her demise, a joke about McDonald's being the devil and a performance by Alice Cooper. 

Without giving it away, the last shot of the film screams for a sequel. Burton has only directed one sequel ("Batman Returns"), so it would be an anomaly for him to do another "Dark Shadows." Who knows? If the box office numbers allow for it, don't be surprised if it happens.

Props to Seth Grahame-Smith, too. He wrote the screenplay and still has the Burton-produced adaptation of "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" coming out this summer.

Threat level: ORANGE. It's a good time. Take a date.

"Dark Shadows," rated PG-13 is in theaters now.

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