At the Movies: “Dark Shadows”

My beau and I went to the show last night to see the Tim Burton flick, Dark Shadows.

My expectation was that it would be a fun afternoon, watching a movie with a good story line. Frankly, I was not expecting a true-to-television remake of the 1960’s late, great Jonathan Frid version, but did I expect a competent re-telling, at least.

I remember a little bit about the television version, as Ma and I would watch it sometimes while she was ironing and folding clothes in the kitchen, and I was helping her. I remember the show being sort of spooky, with an intriguing house, and it was in black-and-white. Then again, everything we watched on television was in black-and-white, since we didn’t get a color television until the 1980s.

The movie version was in one word, awful. The attempts at humor fell flat for me. Burton gave it the old college try, and Johnny Depp delivered well, but the two really did not mesh in this movie. I wasn’t sure if there was a cinematic design to make this a cross between The Addams Family Values, Twilight, Love at First Bite, and I Married a Witch. If so, the lifeblood drained early in the show and it fell dead before dawn—not to be granted immortality, but to be left buried unmercifully in the coffin.

Some people like vampire stories, and it is, of course, for their overt sexual connotation. The biting and sucking is, of course, tied with the soul and the forbidden. Given that climax is referred to as le petite mort, or “little death” in literature, it is obvious to connect vampiric attacks and women fainting to sexual activity. Given this, the intimate, albeit violent, scene in Dark Shadows tries to prey on women’s fantasies and it plays heavily on the act of vampirism being a deeply intimate one, yet it came across violent and hateful, rather than passionate and loving.

On the other hand, there are a few things I did like about this movie. The costumes were good—whether they were eighteenth century or 1970s garb. The sets were magnificent. Johnny Depp looked believably vampiric. Beyond that, the story line was terribly anemic and any attempts at humor should have had a stake driven through them before delivery.

I’ll watch Max Schreck in Nesferatu and Bella Lugosi in any Dracula movie, any time, and George Hamilton in Love at First Bite every chance I get.

They were more bloody believable.

©Susan Marie Molloy and all works within.

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