Friday, June 1, 2012

Nostalgia Sucks

Dark Shadows is a rotten mess of what could've been a great movie.

At it's best, it's reminiscent of Sleepy Hollow. A criminally underrated film that retold a classic American tale with a seamless blend of mystery, horror, and that distinct Tim Burton humor. What little is devoted to the character of Victoria reflects all these qualities but the key to it all working - the mystery - is torpedoed too early in favor of a half-assed love triangle between Barnabas, Angelique, and Victoria - who's really Maggie and possibly a reincarnation of Josette and now you've given more thought to what's going on than the actual screenwriter. That screenwriter is one Seth Grahame-Smith -

This jackass.

A writer who's only demonstrated skill is to take an established work and wipe his dick all over it, he abandons whatever might have turned into a real story at the earliest convenience to draw up a bunch of vampire sight gags and 70s references that are so cringingly unfunny I nearly walked out. The only reason I stuck this out is because I was taking my mom, a longtime Dark Shadows fan, as a belated Mother's Day gift.

Dragging things down further is the ensemble cast who are either wasted or a waste to start with. Michelle Pfeiffer and Helena Bonham Carter can hold their own alongside Johnny Depp - a great actor, even in these awful circumstances - but they're never given a chance. Jackie Earle Haley, the biggest talent on screen as far as I'm concerned, seemed to be consciously phoning it in, having recognized this wreck for what it is. Then there was Chloe whatever, a terrible actress who delivers her terrible lines with the same mouth-breathing sneer and is only on board because American culture has been furiously jacking off to underage girls for over a decade now. Alice Cooper muddles through a cameo, lip-syncing his own classics, nothing like his show-stealing appearance in Wayne's World. And then there are a bunch of nobodies and nothings who only serve as further window dressing for Johnny Depp playing a vampire.

Pictured: Johnny Depp and scenery.

And how is Depp? As I said, a great actor even when things are at their worst, but here wasted on the sort of hackneyed fish-out-of-water antics last seen in Thor and spouting intentionally comic melodrama that still falls flat.

But worst of all is, judging by the trailers for both Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter and Snow White and The Huntress that preceded this cringe-fest, Dark Shadows is what we can expect from American writing these days. And if that half-baked fan fiction isn't up your alley, there's always the plodding navel-gazing of the Dunham set.

I now completely understand why Charles Portis rarely sets foot in this country anymore...

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