Thursday, October 7, 2021

31 Days of Scary Movies: Dark Shadows (2012)

 Last night, it was 2012’s “Dark Shadows” turn on the stage for 31 days of scary movies. Tim Burton’s film version of the beloved 1960s ABC soap opera that has seen decades of television, novels, comics and the like continue on its tradition, this is a film that I enjoy so much, and do not feel gets enough due. 


What isn’t there to love in “Dark Shadows?” There are vampires, ghosts, witches, werewolves and curses— all soap operatically entwined together. This film feels at once a quintessential Burton film, made for his talents; and yet freshly original. His staples are present— Johnny Depp in the lead as cursed vampire Barbara’s Collins, Helena Bonham Carter as Dr. Hoffman, and even Michelle Pfeiffer as Elizabeth Collines Stoddard. The film is set against a gorgeous backdrop; an autumnal New England town, full of old, dark houses and pumpkin patches. And the script, by Seth Grahame-Smith, does a fantastic job at summing up what fans of the “Dark Shadows” canon love, while being something entirely new at the same time. The author of the novels “Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter” and “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” the humor here is wicked, whip smart, and is very much the result of these spooky characters and their happenings— but rarely at their expense.  

 Watching this again, I had some thoughts. Depp is excellent here as Barnabas, and the humor is— while acted out in the flamboyant character of the undead vampire Barbara’s— noticeably restrained, in all the best ways. The film also makes wonderful, nostalgic use of its 1970s setting. We have seen so many films— and so many scary films— that have a time displaced character navigating modern times; and the twist here, that the times are modern, though a bit in the past now, is extremely clever, and always hilarious. Seeing Michelle Pfieffer at her full talents in a Burton film is wonderful as well, and the secondary cast down to Jackie Earle Haley and Chloe Grace Moretz are wonderful. For any Halloween fan, and fan of Burton, “Dark Shadows” is also breathtakingly beautiful to look at. 

I was also struck by the fact that this film came out in 2012, a whole 9 years ago. I remember carving Depp as Barnabas into a pumpkin that Halloween, but I doubt I would have said this happened as long ago as a decade. I am glad I added this to the Halloween rotation; Burton’s “Dark Shadows” is an October-keeper. 

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