A Surprising Appreciation of ‘Dark Shadows’

I have a confession to make: yesterday I saw Dark Shadows, the new Tim Burton joint featuring, predictably, Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter as well as fresh Burton cast members like Chlöe Grace Moretz, Jonny Lee Miller, and Eva Green. I predicted that it would be awful, and most critics seemed to prove all my points: that Burton’s weird big-budget goth epics have gotten stale and stupid. But still, something drew me to the film—maybe vampiric mind control? And, um, I kind of really enjoyed it!

Like most people my generation, I have never seen Dark Shadows, the extremely popular daytime soap opera that ran from 1966 to 1971. A quick jaunt onto the show’s extensive Wikipedia page reveals it was like a late ’60s version of True Blood: there were vampires, ghosts, werewolves, and witches and was considered a gothic, campy masterpiece—just without the current vampire drama’s gratuitous sex and political subtext. It seems like the perfect source material for a Tim Burton movie (he has, after all, professed that he was a fan of the show, as did Johnny Depp), which, judging from his recent creative pursuits (Alice in Wonderland, Sweeney Todd, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, to name a couple of cinematic clunkers), would surely be a big old CGI mess.

And it was, let there be no doubt! But that was also sort of its charm? I concede that it makes absolutely no sense, is all across the board with a bunch of different bizarre subplots including reincarnation, surprise eleventh hour werewolves, fishing politics. It was somewhere in between the movie version of The Addams Family—lovingly showing the divide between an appreciation for straight-forward gothic sensibility and the modern, normal world—and Jan de Bont’s shitbox remake of The Haunting that featured a CGI-heavy scene in which a haunted fireplace murders Owen Wilson. Yes, the creepy old house that is at the center of Dark Shadows eventually attacks its residents at the hands of Eva Green’s sexy witch, but (spoiler alert!), the scene also has Michelle Pfeiffer shooting Green with a shotgun LIKE A BOSS, and then Green’s body breaks apart in a Death Becomes Her sort of way. It’s the best ’90s movie to be released in the second decade of the new millennium! 

Let’s talk about what makes this shitshow so great: it takes place in the ’70s. It’s so super stylized with ridiculous clothes, wigs, and accessories (I have never seen so many turtlenecks under corderoy blazers); it’s the best ’70s costume design I’ve seen since The Ice Storm, and we all know that the only way that Ang Lee masterpiece could have been improved is if Joan Allen was a witch and had the gumption to punish her cheating husband with dark magic. And the music! The Moody Blues, T-Rex, Barry White. Even present-day Alice Cooper makes a cameo as 1972 Alice Cooper! That is the most stupidly brilliant thing that I wish I could have thought of myself. 

So basically Dark Shadows is a gigantic disaster that entertained the hell out of me. Let’s compare it to another pile of garbage that has captured the hearts and minds of hate-watching Americans this year. As Tara Ariano writes of the NBC musical theater drama, "Smash is the worst TV show I’ve ever loved; it might be the worst thing I’ve ever loved." Well, Dark Shadows is my Smash. I’m not proud that I loved it, but I’m not ashamed, either. 

Movies Opening This Weekend, in Order of How Much We Like Their Trailers

Some people judge a movie based on reviews, other will go see something just because it features a favorite actor. Here, we’re judging this weekend’s offerings based solely on what we see in the trailers and ranking them accordingly.

Hick: Chloe Moretz plays a runaway kid on her way to the bright lights of Vegas. On the way she meets a cast of ne’erdowells including Eddie Redmayne, Blake Lively and Juliette Lewis. It’s a story we’ve seen before, but this trailer is exciting enough that seeing it again doesn’t sound so bad.

A Bag of Hammers: This SXSW-approved indie comedy follows two con men who pose as valets as they steal their way into audience’s hearts. The introduction of a kid promises to schmaltz up the joint and might lead to a saccharine ending, but any trailer that uses The Cure so well is alright by us.

Dark Shadows: Tim Burton and Johnny Depp take on the beloved 1960s and ‘70s daytime creepfest with their signature Goth-lite touch and a cast featuring Michelle Pfeiffer and, as always, Helena Bonham Carter. The trailer doesn’t sell exactly the vampire movie we want to see, but it’s the one they’ve got.

Where Do We Go Now: A subtitled foreign number about women who are attempting to keep their village safe from a religious war and the men who can’t seem to help but start one. This won’t take care of your car-chases-and-explosions needs, but if you’re feeling brainy it could be satisfying.

Dragon Eyes: When a town plagued by drugs and gangs gets a new citizen in the form of martial arts master Ryan Hong… well, you know what happens. The fight scenes promise to be sickening, the rest will be boilerplate.

Girl in Progress: A coming of age story about a kid obsessed with coming of age stories and her immature mom. Eva Mendes had better be making this movie to pay off some sort of debt, because she should know better.

Is Johnny Depp Hollywood’s Sexiest Vampire?

The latest Tim Burton-Johnny Depp collaboration, Dark Shadows, won’t open until May 11, but today a featurette on the film hit the web, showing off some never-before-seen footage and giving us a glimpse into Collinwood, the mansion Depp’s movie family, and the characters played by a supporting cast that includes Michelle Pfeiffer, Chloe Moretz, Eva Green, and Jonny Lee Miller.

But despite the excitement another Burton-Depp collaboration — the pair’s eighth — brings, this isn’t the first time we’ve all been to the sexy vampire rodeo. Take a walk down memory lane with us, will you?

There’s, of course, Alexander Skarsgard’s Eric Northman on HBO’s True Blood, perhaps the hottest bloodsucker—sorry, Vampire Bill—to ever cower from the sun.

And naturally, we have Robert Pattinson’s Edward Cullen in the Twilight films, if you’re into that sort of thing. If not, he has enough brothers, sisters and fake vampire parents that one of them has got to get your blood boiling.

Whether it’s Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt who’s your favorite, it was impossible to walk out of Interview with the Vampire without hoping to end up with one of these fangers clamped onto your neck.

Wesley Snipes’ titular character in Blade might have only been half vampire, but he was all hunk.

Like your vampires more New Wave? Keifer Sutherland and company, in 1987’s The Lost Boys offer eternal evil and Wayfarers. It’s a winning combo.

He might not be the megastar he once was, but Colin Farrell’s flesh-eating neighbor from the recent Fright Night reboot can come over and borrow a cup of sugar from us any time.

Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, More in New Clips from ‘Dark Shadows’

Johnny Depp has been all over the movie news world for the past couple of weeks now, and his two upcoming, much-hyped starring roles in Dark Shadows and The Lone Ranger have a bit in common. They’re both film reboots of popular television programs the Baby Boomers watched as kids. They both involve Depp wearing dramatic makeup.

Instead of the gothic vampire soap opera of the 1960s, the 2012 Dark Shadows, which sports the usual triumvirate of Depp, director Tim Burton and fellow Burton muse Helena Bonham Carter, seems like a ghoulish comic romp served with a side of ’70s cheese. Depp assumes the iconic role of Barnabas Collins, the heartthrob-without-a-beating-heart who the late Jonathan Frid made popular in the original show; Bonham Carter plays Dr. Julia Hoffman, the Collins family’s live-in therapist called upon to deal with the family’s long-lost undead relative. Michelle Pfeiffer stars as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, with Jonny Lee Miller (Dexter) playing Elizabeth’s brother and Chloe Moretz (Hugo) playing her daughter.

Nine new clips from the upcoming Dark Shadows were released this week, including We’re introduced to Elizabeth and Julia, who have a Bechdel test-defying discussion over whatever they shall do with Barnabas, as well as the Collins children, most notably Carolyn (Moretz), who advises Barnabas to book Alice Cooper for a "happening" at the house. There’s also a really creepy scene in which Barnabas asks Carolyn about why she’s 15 and doesn’t have a husband yet, but we digress.

Dark Shadows hits theaters May 11th, but you can check out some of the new clips after the jump.

Chris Pine & Elizabeth Banks Play Long-Lost Siblings in ‘People Like Us’

It’s a time-tested nightmare scenario: You meet someone furiously good-looking and emotionally appealing, spend a little while flirting with them, and then — surprise, surprise — find out that they’re a long-lost relative, sending you into sexual therapy for a few years. People Like Us, the directorial debut of Transformers writer Alex Kurtzman, adds a few wrinkles to the formula: There’s $150,000 of inheritance money at stake, and one of the characters already knows he’s related to the other. Fun fun fun! In the movie, Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks play unknowing siblings (he knows, she doesn’t), with Pine tasked with giving their dead father’s savings to Banks’s son. But he’s less than forward about his knowledge of their relation when they first meet, leading to the most awkwardly unintentional courtship this side of Luke and Leia. Watch the trailer after the click, via the Hollywood Reporter.

Olivia Wilde is there to play Pine’s girlfriend, while Michelle Pfeiffer plays a mom of questionable mental stability. Apparently, the movie’s original title was Welcome to People. Ha ha. Soooo not awkward, right? People Like Us is out on June 29.