Review: Dark Shadows is a feast of reaction shots

A Shiny Coffin Filled with Farts

In Dark Shadows, Tim Burton boldly challenges the notion that movies are a medium for telling stories. He flips the entire paradigm on its head! F*ck you, story! Thing happens! Reaction shot! That’s all you need! The whole thing is basically Tim Burton screaming gibberish at Johnny Depp to make him confused, because it’s cute when Johnny Deppp cocks his head to the side like a puppy.

Well, it is.

Good B-movies and schlock (and the kind of fancy Disney-goth Tim Burton used to be a master of) almost always hook you with an over-the-top premise, then, once you’re in the tent, reveal nuance, and engage you in such way that the characters start to feel real. You start to actually care about them – this wolfman, does he have nards? Dark Shadows does nearly the opposite, where a compelling-ish premise leads to a series of increasingly baffling situations happening to people who might as well be random passersby. By the end, I felt like Royal Tenenbaum, shouting “Characters? What characters? All I saw was a bunch of actors wearing costumes!”

Depp plays Barnabas Collins, son of a proper Englishman who, in 1752, set sail for Maine to make his fortune in fish canning, eventually becoming so successful that the family becomes the namesake of both an estate (Collinwood) and an entire town (Collinsport). They’re rich, but as Barnabas’s father shows up once for five seconds to tell us, “Nothing is as important as family or some shit, Barnabas, nothing.”

Barnabas ends up banging his hot maid, Angelique (Eva Green) who’s madly in love with him because they locked eyes once when they were eight, and that kind of thing always leads to lifelong attachment in movies. He says “feh” to easy sex with this busty temptress in his fabulous mansion, and it turns out she’s some sort of self-taught witch who turns Barnabas into a vampire with a snap of her fingers. Then she throws Barnabas’s fiancee off a cliff using mind control and gets the townspeople to bury him in a locked coffin, where he stays for almost 200 years.