I'll admit out of the gate that I didn't want to see Dark Shadows. Let's just say the trailer didn't do it for me. But my parents had watched the show when they were kids, and they invited me to come with them. For a nostalgia-driven movie based on a late 60's soap opera, Dark Shadows is actually pretty good. I was amazed at how well the incredibly corny lines in the commercials worked in context. It was one of those trailers where they put almost all the funny bits in the commercials, but the commercial was terrible, and those bits were all funny when surrounded by the character development that supported them.
One of the things I think really made it enjoyable for me was knowing why Johnny Depp was involved. When I first saw the trailers, I wondered why he'd attach himself to such a campy, goofy movie. I thought Tim Burton had finally gone all-the-way nuts, and was dragging Depp with him. Then I found out it was Depp's idea.
And what about talk that you'd like to do a Dark Shadows feature, from Dan Curtis' old occult soap-opera TV series?
If that comes to fruition, that's a dream come true, man. Barnabas Collins — when I was a kid I wanted to be Barnabas. (Source)
That changed it for me. From that point, it wasn't a weird, goofy instance of nostalgia porn. It was a childhood dream. It was like when I found out that David Tennant, who was at the time the new Doctor on Doctor Who, had gotten into acting because he'd wanted that part. Knowing a movie is making someone's dream come true just makes it better for me, I guess.
I'd give Dark Shadows a solid 3 out of 5. I'm not going to buy the DVD, but I think it's worth seeing.
Spoilery reviews after the fold.
Spoilers start here.
There's a lot of sex and sexuality in Dark Shadows, and it really comes through that they're trying to pull off being true to soap opera characters, but fitting it into a movie-length and style story arc. That leaves the plot feeling a little unfulfilled at times. It seems like there should have been more revelations and jealous misunderstandings.
There's a scene featuring the vilification of shock therapy, which I understand is appropriate for the time, but it bothers me, because a lot of people still think of electroconvulsive therapy as barbaric and inhumane, but it's a valuable treatment for people with no other choice, and is rarely administered these days without explicit, informed consent of the patient. I accept that there was no positive way to portray it as it happened in the 70's, but I'd have preferred they just left it out.
There's an out-of-nowhere scene near the end where it's revealed that the young girl in the house is a werewolf. I thought this was hilarious, and I wish they'd left it as that single gag. Unfortunately, she later joins a fight, making that reveal an extremely late Checkov's gun.