When I was five, I was drawn in by the “Dark Shadows” TV show. Initially it might of been because there was a child on the show (David Collins) who reminded me of Bill Mumy from one of my other favorite programs, “Lost in Space.” Whatever it was that drew me in, I was completely fascinated by Barnabas Collins along with the overall weirdness of the show that would ultimately stay with me my entire life.
I remember my grandparents taking mom and myself over to Racine, Wisconsin to visit their local Goldblatt’s Store. Since it was another city, seemingly endless miles from my native Kenosha, I would panic worrying that we’d never make it back in time to see the latest episode. Having only a half hour window of opportunity, this was a serious matter to my childhood self. Jonathan Frid (Barnabas Collins) was the very first monster I would discover. Therefore, this show is something that evokes a deep sense of nostalgia for me that still persists.
Watching them today, I am always taken aback at how the styles, sets, music, and overall look of the actors is so very 1960’s to me. While most of the country was experiencing unrest during this time, I recall a much more innocent era characterized by day trips with my grandparents, memories of my father (who died when I was young), and lots of laughter. In my adult life, I have been revisiting the show via the wonders of VHS (yeah, I know, but the DVD’s are just too darn expensive) and find that seeing episodes I missed as a kid is almost like seeing the last frontier of classic horror before it would be remade and rehashed hundreds of times over.
If I sound cynical that’s because I sort of am. My adult eyes have seen very little from modern TV or film that even remotely compares to the the vintage classics of Universal, Hammer Studios, TOHO, or American International Pictures. Those, to me, were the last bastions of “stylized” horror films. With one exception…
I have always been a fan of Tim Burton who (usually with the aid of his lead actor, Johnny Depp) created his own brand of quirky horror fantasy. NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS and ED WOOD are two movies that I find myself watching again and again. After 25 years of enjoying Tim Burton films I still find myself looking forward to the next one.
Needless to say, the anticipation of my favorite director creating a film version of my favorite TV show was HUGE! Even though early reports from fans complained that the film was to be presented more as a comedy, I remained open minded.
Now at long last the day had finally arrived….May 11th! I rushed to the morning paper to see a review – not unlike Ed Wood searching for his own review regarding GLEN or GLENDA. Ironically the outcome would also be the same. “A pale horror comedy?” Oh NOOOOOOOOOO!!!! I’d been hoping that this movie would be for vampires what JAWS had been for sharks! I had had my fill of those damn TWILIGHT movies and vampires that can buy their costumes at “Old Navy!” This was supposed to show the younger generation what true horror was and now it seemed I was having a 2001 Tim Burton PLANET OF THE APES flashback!
Oh well, I always tend to disagree with critics anyway and, besides that, this is was definitely worth seeing as opposed to another stupid super hero movie (NOTE: The opinion of Dr. Destruction, with respect to THE AVENGERS, need not reflect those of management). I arrived at the first matinee showing gleaming like a TWILIGHT vampire with anticipation. While watching the trailers, I even got excited about another upcoming Tim Burton feature, the animated FRANKENWEENIE.
The movie begins by being dark and serious regarding Barnabas’ origins in true Burton style. I also felt that Danny Elfman’s score echoed the original in may ways while still managing to be unique. For the most part, I can’t complain about the characters. They did stay true to the originals while being introduced to a new audience. I was also drawn in by the sets as well as overall look while also enjoyed seeing Michelle Pfeiffer in a Burton film.
As a musician, I was also pleased to see them play some good 70’s music like Iggy Pop and T-Rex as opposed to some of the other crud they might have chosen. Then, after everyone had been introduced, the film proceeded true to its soap opera-esque roots (go figure). I did have fun watching this movie but, for me, I felt like I’d been led down this same road with Burton and Depp so many times before. Almost like they were just going through the motions without really trying to do anything special.
I kept saying to myself, “What matters is that the new generation likes it” but, although I enjoyed these characters, I couldn’t help thinking that they they’d somehow been robbed. This cast just doesn’t hold a candle to the top notch acting we “Dark Shadows” TV fans had experienced. I guess its not that surprising. Like trying to make a movie from a novel, there was just so much material in those TV shows that it is impossible to condense it all into one feature.
Burton and Depp appear to have gotten too cozy. Like Rock bands that lose their edge after they become successful. The movie is visually beautiful (a skill Burton has never lost) but if this was supposed to be a comedy, I found the humor to be scarce. “Oh well,” I told myself again. “This is not about me but what the kids think.”
Suddenly the lights came up and I saw the audience clearly. They all had white hair and were eligible for Medicare benefits as well as department store Senior discounts! This led me to the truly scariest moment of the entire experience…
…an affirmation of my own mortality.
Note: The Daves wish to thank Kenosha Horror Host, Dr. Destruction, for sharing his insights with our readers!
Dr. Destruction was not the only horror host who is a huge fan of the classic TV show. Horror Hostess, Penny Dreadful, also has a take on the movie and you can read that by clicking HERE!