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Thursday, 17 August 2017

Dark Shadows (2012) (Review by Reecey.)

Dark Shadows (2012)
(Review by Reecey.)

Let’s start with this basic fact about the film Dark Shadows: Everything that happens in this film is Barnabas’ fault.

Everything and absolutely.

See, the film begins with a prologue that would have been a much better film if any of the events in it had been expanded upon.

Such as the background and motivation of the antagonist, and, oh yeah, the entire romance between Barnabas and Josette.

Oh, sure, I believe that the death of this random woman really negatively affected him to the point of suicide, that must be why he says nothing about her and we don’t know how they met, or what they have in common or anything at all about her other than she’s pretty and looks good in blue!

The relationship between him and Angelique (the villain) is more convincing entirely because they actually, you know, talk to each other.

I have two warring views on as to why the relationship between Angelique and Barnabas isn’t better expounded upon.

The first boils down to bad storytelling and filmmaking, which this movie is absolutely riddled with and I’ll get to that later.

Editor's Note: How very ... Burton-y.

The second is, well, when you really boil down the mechanics and politics of how Barnabas treated her … can you blame her for being angry?

She was a servant to his family from childhood and in a town that his family basically owned, and in this climate which he claims to be aware of, he still thought it was acceptable to take advantage of her.

She spends the entire film stating and displaying her, admittedly very unhealthy, feelings for him, and the way he talks to and about her is absolutely horrendous.

For example, he has a tendency to call her a whore. Mostly in the ‘whore of Babylon’ sense, but still. That’s an odd word choice when he kept having premarital sex with a woman who he never had any intention of marrying.

There’s tosh later on about how she’s incapable of love, but… I do not buy it. I’m guessing that it’s because she’s a witch, but that is so poorly explained that I live in a perpetual state of confusion as to why the man who shows no genuine romantic affection is apparently capable of love, but the woman who is constantly begging for him to love her isn’t.

It just makes no sense.

Anyway, that lack of romantic affection. So, in addition to barely interacting with the woman he attempted suicide for, he barely interacts with Victoria(/Maggie), the female lead.

Now, this is a problem entirely because it makes the romance seem less real. Much less considering the climax.

See, I like Victoria just fine. It doesn’t feel like she’s particularly important to the plot, but she still comes across as a well rounded and interesting character. I accept that she interacts with the family and feels connected to them.

Hell, I can even accept that she and Barnabas could very well be some epic romance, but they get so little time to actually explore any aspect of their relationship outside of ‘she’s pretty and looks like my dead wife/fiancee’ and ‘he’s played by Johnny Depp’ that what chemistry and affection there is between them gets lost by the wayside.

The film seems more interested in exploring the relationship between Angelique and Barnabas, or even Barnabas and Dr Hoffman, than it does the main romance.

I could go with any of those relationships being the focus of a film, but in this case it’s muddying the waters so badly that I can’t help but see Angelica as the real love interest of the film.

Victoria is a character I like, but she is a terrible leading lady.

Hell, Elizabeth, the current Collins matriarch, is a more compelling leading lady. Sure, there’s no romance there, but she and Barnabas do things together. They talk, they scheme, they both clearly care deeply about their family and you can see them bond.

Victoria seems almost surplus to requirements. We have a meaningful central relationship in Barnabas and Elizabeth and we have strong emotional tension between Barnabas and Angelique.

Victoria as a plot seed planted to bloom after the end of Angelique’s arc would have worked really well.

Instead we got an astroturf romance that was put there for plot reasons and yet still feels totally arbitrary.

This, with a lot of the storytelling issues, is probably because they were trying to fit in story elements of what should be a series into a single two hour film.

I’m not even going to go into the Dr Hoffman subplot because of how pointless it is to this film, outside of her being another woman that Barnabas is willing to bang outside of marriage.

Now, speaking of banging, don’t let this fairly serious discourse make you think that this film is trying to be taken seriously. No, this film thinks that it's funny. And it is incredibly wrong.

Nowhere is this more apparent than what has to be one of the most cringeworthy 12A rated sex scenes that I have ever had the misfortune to watch.

It was painful.

Also, like a lot of the film’s attempts to be funny, it takes what was a fairly engaging scene and goes and ruins it.

I feel like the film would be objectively better if it wasn’t trying to be funny. Barnabas being awful is fine, some people just are despite their best attempts, but the way that the film is trying to force jokes into this story about love, revenge, family and isolation is just ruining things.

Maybe, if the film spent less time trying to make me laugh and more time on Barnabas’ character and his relationships (which all have the potential to be very engaging), then the good movie that is desperately trying to claw its way out could have seen the light of day.

As it stands … watch drunk.

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