Missed “Dark Shadows” in theaters when it opened earlier this year? Don’t feel bad, chances are you probably weren’t the only one. Despite boasting surefire hitmakers Tim Burton and Johnny Depp behind and in front of the cameras, the film didn’t exactly light the world on fire. Of course, it probably didn’t help that the studio wasn’t sure what kind of product Burton was going to deliver, and seemed to have some difficulty selling it when he finally did. I remember my reaction to the first trailer — I believe the letters “W”, “T”, and “F” might have been involved. So what exactly did Burton and company give us after many long years of development? Find out when “Dark Shadows” arrives on DVD and Blu-ray October 2nd, 2012 courtesy of Warner Home Video.
From the wonderfully warped imagination of Tim Burton comes the story of Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp), a dashing aristocrat who is turned into a vampire by a jilted lover and entombed for two centuries. Emerging from his coffin into the world of 1972, he returns to his once-majestic home, only to the few dysfunctional descendants of the Collins family who remain. Determined to return his family name to its former glory, Barnabas is thwarted at every turn by his former lover – the seductive witch Angelique (Eva Green).
“Dark Shadows” proves, if nothing else, that the combination of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp is a force to be reckon with at the box office. Despite across-the-board negative reviews (as of this writing, the film maintains a weak 38% freshness rating at reviews aggregate site RottenTomatoes.com), “Dark Shadows” nevertheless made almost $80 million domestically and $238 million worldwide from a $150 million dollar budget, the bulk of its box office coming from overseas. While far from being a hit (other considerations, such as promotional budget, must always to be factored in with selling a Hollywood blockbuster to a world audience), it’s not the unmitigated disaster it could have been. I mean, it could have been much, much worst. (Ask the guys who made “John Carter” if you don’t believe me.)
Say what you will about “Dark Shadows” not living up to the legacy of the TV shows, but as a Tim Burton-Johnny Depp collaboration, it’s exactly what I expected it to be. Or at least, I wasn’t all that surprise by how the film turned out, though obviously a lot of other people were judging by all the reviews. Honestly, I don’t know what they were expecting. This is Tim Burton, the director of “Edward Scissorhands”, “Mars Attacks!”, and “Ed Wood”, among other titles. What exactly did they think he was going to do with a story about a vampire who re-appears on the scene — in the 1970s?
Despite an almost two hour running time, “Dark Shadows” moves along surprisingly well. The Origins Story prelude in the 1700s is quickly dispensed with very early in the film, and soon the vampire Barnabas is released from captivity (having been tossed into a coffin, natch) in the year 1972. And you know what that means — yup. Disco! Well, eventually, anyway. There are a couple of nasty little bits here and there, such as when Barnabas (Depp) first awakens and feasts on the poor construction workers who accidentally freed him, but overall the film is light and amusing, spending a hefty amount of time on Barnabas trying to adjust to life in the 1970s. In a lot of ways, setting the film in the ’70s was probably one of the movie’s best decisions. There’s just no era in American history quite like the ’70s, and “Dark Shadows” certainly squeezes all the polyester and camp for all they’re worth.
Depp is entertaining throughout, but that’s no surprise. He clearly has a fondness for the original source material, and it shows in his performance. Former Bond girl Eva Green, as the witch of our nightmares (or is that fantasy?) is ridiculously sexy (I mean, a blonde Eva Green vamping it up? That’s just unfair) even as she continues to wage war against Barnabas and his dysfunctional brood, led by Michelle Pfeiffer. The film features an all-star cast that includes Helena Bonham Carter, Chloe Moretz, and Jackie Earle Haley, but make no mistake, this is Depp’s show in front of the camera and Burton’s show behind the scenes. This is unmistakably a “Tim Burton movie”.
Which makes “Dark Shadows” a no-brainer for fans of Depp and Burton. It has all of the two men’s trademark comedy, quirks, and little bits of blood and death that always ends up in their movies one way or another. Is it the best of their collaboration? Probably not, but it’s also nowhere near as bad as you might have heard.
The Blu-ray Combo Pack comes with the film on standard DVD and Blu-ray, with the main special feature being its Maximum Movie Mode. Essentially an option that allows you to watch the movie while behind-the-scenes featurettes play in a picture-in-picture box along with you. If you want to skip Maximum Movie Mode, you can always watch the film’s many featurettes with the Focus Points option. Included are mini-docs “Becoming Barnabus”, “Welcome To Collinsport!”, “The Collinses: Every Family Has Its Demons”, “Reliving a Decade – Angelique: A Witch Scorned”, “Alice Cooper Rocks Collinsport!”, “Dark Shadowy Secrets”, “A Melee of Monstrous Proportions”, and “Dark Shadows: The Legend Bites Back”. I wouldn’t say any of these are must-sees, but there are a couple of fun ones in there. And finally, a handful of deleted scenes that runs a total of about six minutes, give or take.