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Movie Review: ‘Dark Shadows’ Is a Dreadful Disappointment

The Johnny Depp and Tim Burton collaboration leaves critics unimpressed.

For those who remember the gothic soap opera “Dark Shadows,” word of the movie version starring Johnny Depp was likely welcome. Unfortunately for fans of the television series, the transition to the big screen has been judged and found wanting.

In "Dark Shadows," vampire Barnabas Collins, played by Depp, awakens from a centuries-long sleep in 1972 to find his estate and empire in near ruins. Collins predictably sets out to restore the family fortune and finds himself at odds with the witch who transformed him into a vampire in the mid-1700s.

Scott Weinberg of FearNet.com described the movie as a “true stinker, in Hollywood terms.”

“ ‘Dark Shadows’ suffers from a miserable pace, a confused editorial approach, and a tone that wavers between ostensibly playful and smugly vulgar,” Weinberg wrote.

Marshall Fine of HollywoodandFine.com wrote the movie is “as dreary a big-budget extravaganza as you’re likely to see this year (unless Michael Bay springs a movie on us unexpectedly).”

Fine criticized the plot, the writing, the jokes, the characters and more.

“ ‘Dark Shadows’ isn’t the worst movie ever made,” he wrote. “It probably won’t even be the worst movie of the year. And that’s the best I can say about it. Watching it is like being told a weak joke that you already know.”

Here’s what other critics had to say about the film:

"The trailer, suggesting that DARK SHADOWS was being played as a spoof, caused consternation among many who viewed it, but the real issue is that as it goes on, the movie can’t seem to decide if it wants to stay true to the Gothic sensibility or send it up." – Michael Gingold, Fangoria
"The movie plays as if Hollywood executives said, hey, a 'Dark Shadows' movie would be a fun project — and never looked in on it again. Nowhere is the lack of discipline and structure more apparent than in the ending, which is a mess – and, unlike most of the rest of the film, not even an interesting one. From anyone, this version of 'Dark Shadows' would be a disappointment; from Burton, it’s an even bigger one." - Bill Goodykoontz, FloridaToday.com
"… the humor slithers between the clever and the sophomoric and the film too often seems willing to settle for mild humor at the expense of hippie-era mores instead of pursuing the palpable temptation to become genuinely twisted." – Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter

“Dark Shadows” is rated PG-13 for comic horror violence, sexual content, some drug use, language and smoking.

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C.Huckabee May 13, 2012 at 11:08 AM
Seen DarkShadows lastnight. I wasn't impressed at all. I think Burton & Depp need to take a break from each other for a WHILE. It jus had to much and nothing going on all at the same time. Somethings were laughable, others were like the character "Willie" (duh, what). Also is it possible to see a Burton film without Helena Bonman Carter or is it in there marriage contract she be in a film to make it worse. I had such hopes, but they were broken..... much like the plot of this movie. C.Huckabee
Keith Boles May 13, 2012 at 12:08 PM
Saw DS yesterday. I enjoyed the mix between the modern and Burton's dialogue for Depp. After watching the previews I was afraid it was going to be over the edge in silliness, but it's not!! I did watch the original series in the 70's, it was soap operish and gloomy. Burton re-did the story and updated it. Don't look at it with purist goggles on! KJB
Tyler May 13, 2012 at 10:32 PM
I saw Dark Shadows last night and I loved it. Thought it was fun and entertaining. Also, it wasn't nearly as bad as the trailer. It was bit more gothic. A bit off horror and light comedy.

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