When the trailer for Dark Shadows was finally unveiled, opinions were mixed, but they leaned more towards negative than positive.
The footage looks great, Johnny Depp as vampire Barnabas Collins is terrific, but the tone of the trailer felt a little too goofy.
One was hoping that it would indeed be faithful to the classic TV soap opera, but you also know movies things have to be updated a bit and move with the times, even if you’re going retro. What especially offset the trailer was the funky 70’s music, which felt like director Tim Burton was cramming a square peg in a round hole, but again, it was only a coming attraction, and the ultimate test is always the finished film.
So the film’s about to come out, it had its world premiere where Depp jammed together with Alice Cooper (who has a cameo in the film), and Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith.
The verdict? Mixed, at least judging by the first reviews. Again, with Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, usually one trade magazine likes a movie, the other doesn’t, and there were similarities in the reviews, but The Reporter liked it a little bit more.
Variety wrote, “Few director-star partnerships are as consistently eccentric or malleable as that of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, but even loyalists will detect an odor of mothballs clinging to their eighth bigscreen collaboration, Dark Shadows.”
The film has “super-slick production values, and a tone that veers unsteadily between kooky comedy and gothic horror, this bizarre but weirdly bloodless retro-camp exercise is neither funny nor eerie enough to seduce the uninitiated, and will court bemused reactions at best from the series’ still-estimable fan following.”
Veteran film critic Todd McCarthy felt the film was “a fun-enough makeover of an old TV favorite,” and funny enough he also called The Hunger Games “a good enough” adaptation of the book. McCarthy writes that Dark Shadows “sinks its teeth half-way into its potentially meaty material but hesitates to go all the way. The humor slithers between the clever and the sophomoric and the film too often seems willing to settle for mild humor… Still, with its central bloodsucker vs. witch rivalry and Depp in one of his patented bizarre roles, this has all the ear and tooth marks of an early summer winner for Warner Bros.”
So yes, vampires are really popular right now, but is that enough to carry Dark Shadows this weekend, especially considering the original show was cancelled forty years ago now? Perhaps as The Reporter tells it, maybe it will be fun enough to win audiences over this weekend, and even with Tim Burton’s worst films, there’s usually enough arresting imagery to take in, and Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins should be worth the price of admission alone.