Saturday, March 17, 2012

Trailer Review: Dark Shadows

Okay, as most of you know, the trailer for the latest Tim Burton/Johnny Depp film, Dark Shadows, premiered last weekend. And, if you read yesterday's post, you know I'm not that thrilled with it. Okay, I'm rather pissed off, but before we get into why I'm so angry, here's the trailer.

I hope fans of the original series weren't expecting a serious treatment of the story, like the TV revival in the late 80s, because you won't be getting that. Instead, it appears Burton and Depp are intent on driving a stake through our hearts this summer.

Okay, for the first few minutes, the film looks pretty good. As Barnabas Collins explains how he was cursed by a jealous witch and become a vampire, the trailer delivers a great Gothic setting and some slightly overblown moments keeping with the campy feel of the original. Imprisoned in a coffin for two hundred years, Barnabas is eventually unearthed, prompting his deceased fiancee (now a ghost) to begin chanting, "He's coming."

I must admit, the Haunted Mansion look of the apparition should have triggered a warning. But it's the moment when Barnabas springs out of his coffin and spreads his arms that things started going wrong.

And the trailer keeps getting worse.

Oh, where do I begin? Is it the horrid soundtrack, including Superfly and Bang a Gong?!? Just what was Burton thinking?!?!?!? Or maybe it was the disco ball hanging in Collinwood, or Angelique reveling her ageless cleavage as part of her master plan to seduce Barnabas. And let's not get into the horrid CGI chains wrapping around Barnabas before he's entombed, while Angelique drops her panties over his face. Arrgh!

Okay, have to stop or else my brain will explode.

I guess portraying Barnabas as a fish out of water might be good for a few laughs, and one suspects the filmmakers were trying to capture some of the humor from The Addams Family films. But it appears Burton and company forgot one small factor that made Barry Sonnenfeld's films work, which was never to mock the characters or the source material.

The Addams Family films worked because the humor didn't come at the expense of the Addams, but from their eccentricities and their interactions with the mundane world. Dark Shadows, on the other hand, seems to be aiming for a spoof on the caliber of The Naked Gun series. Which would be fine if the film was based upon original characters and situations, rather than a show still treasured by fans. The trailer makes Burton's treatment akin to a prolonged, two hour taunting from an obnoxious bully. And I'm sure most horror fans dealt with enough of that in our youths, so we don't need Burton mocking us once again.

As for setting his film in the 70s, the only reason seems to be a desire to have Barnabas host a disco party at Collinwood. That, and to use music from the decade. How much do you want to bet that the soundtrack cue will be Disco Inferno when Angelique mutters, "Burn, baby, burn," as she torches the Collins Canning Factory?

As for Depp, I expected to see him slathered in pale makeup once again (it must be in the contract anytime he works with Burton). But, as his work in Sweeney Todd indicates, Depp could have pulled off a brooding, angry Barnabas Collins, no matter the amount of pale pancake applied to his face. Yet, he's falling back into his Captain Jack Sparrow act once again, complete with buffoonish reactions and line delivery. "I must admit, they have not aged a day," is not what Barnabas would say to the witch who turned him into a vampire and imprisoned him for centuries, no matter how eternal her bosom may appear.

This film will isolate the fan base expecting a serious treatment, though I suspect it will make a ton of money. Some of the comments on the web indicate that people aren't familiar with the original Dark Shadows and assume the campy attitude is a direct reflection of the show. That help the film find an audience, but Dan Curtis and his team didn't set out to make a camp classic. The show feels campy because of the soap opera format and the pressures of making a half hour show every day of the week (the original 5 year run contains 1,225 episodes, more than Doctor Who or the complete Star Trek franchise). And, to be honest, four decades have passed since the show left the air, and what might have taken seriously in the 60s could seem dated and campy to a modern audience.

Still, it's no excuse for this mockery of a movie. While such a treatment might sit well with a younger audience unfamiliar with the original, it's sacrilege to the fans who anticipated a more serious treatment of Dark Shadows on the big screen.