Tim Burton’s sendup of the 1970s camp soap opera Dark Shadows (2011) is thoroughly botched. Johnny Depp does a great job as Barnabas Collins, but the rest of the folks in the film struggle. We see a lot of poor special effects that serve little purpose, several pseudo sex scenes that seem silly rather than erotic and that in any case are simply pointless—the one with Depp and Michelle Pfeiffer comes especially to mind. The film vacillates between broad campy humor, silliness, and moments of extreme violence, as when, for instance, Depp’s character Barnabas informs a group of friendly and innocuous hippies that he truly regrets the fact that he is going to have to kill them. You can feel in this film the influence of the HBO True Blood series, especially as Depp’s character struggles in various ways to overcome his vampire nature (I suppose this was an issue in the original series). Yet True Blood is not comedy, and not a good influence on this film.
This film reminded me of the two Addams Family movies which were, I thought, quite entertaining. The Addams Family television series was tongue in cheek from the start, based on the equally humorous and mordant cartoons of Charles Addams. So the Addams Family films simply carry forward with the basic principle of their source. But the Dark Shadows television series was not parody, and it’s been so long since it was playing that virtually no one can remember it. The film as a result has no center, no real object of satire other than itself and its characters.
I found it a total waste.