I don’t know what it is about my generation, the one that comes after the Boomers, that our pop culture is so thoroughly mined by current Hollywood. Maybe because we were the first generation born with TV sets in the home and reruns of the Boomers TV shows. We were the Re-Generation. Give it to us, we’ll eat anything.
But Hollywood must think we really want to see all of our childhood favorites on the big screen, only this time to be made fun of.
Thus, the quippy Starsky and Hutch. Land of the Lost with no kids, turned into a gross-out comedy for Will Ferrell. And Barnabus Collins and the cursed Collins clan spoofed for laughs.
At least the trailer wanted you to think so. The film is actually more serious than that and at least attempts horror. But that doesn’t mean it works.
I don’t remember the original Dark Shadows very well on account of being 4 or 5 years old. But I do remember peeking out from behind my grandmother’s chair, being too scared to watch it full-on. Everyone was tortured and almost everything was scary, even with the live-TV gaffes and the cheesy stage effects. The writers had a groove. They were committed to making a moody horror/soap opera and that’s what they did.
Barnabus Collins, cursed by the witch Angelique to be a vampire and in stasis for hundreds of years because he didn’t love her, wakes up and it’s the groovy decade. He’s sort of tortured about being a bloodsucking fiend, except when it’s played for laughs. Laughs that don’t land because the script never seems to be certain what it wants to do. Are we supposed to feel sorry for the gentleman-vampire Barnabus as he politely informs his companions that he must eat them now? Are we supposed to be scared? To laugh? All three?
The Tim Burton/Johnny Depp love affair works best when everyone is sure of their role, like in Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood. But when covering other people’s sensibilities, as in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or Sleepy Hollow, the Burton bizarreness backfires and the characters become caricatures.
I guess I should give the writers of Dark Shadows credit for the difficulty setting of trying to mix tones, humor and horror. But why didn’t they just decide what they wanted to be and then be that? They should have checked out Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the series. When Joss Whedon decided he wanted to make a vampire/horror/teen soap opera comedy, he did it and the rest is pop culture history.
I neither laughed nor felt scared nor cared about the characters in Tim Burton’s new movie. Not once.
1 out of 5 stars.