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Sunday May 13, 2012
I’m completely unfamiliar with the source material for Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows. My only prep for this film was the trailer, which promised something on the order of Encino Man, only with a vampire instead of a caveman, and 1972 instead of 1992.
I didn’t like Encino Man at all. One must wonder why I decided to see Dark Shadows. I’ll be honest. I needed something for which I had extremely low expectations, something awful (but not “cult-classic” awful) to cleanse my palate after three viewings of The Avengers. Otherwise, so my logic goes, every other movie this year will be disappointing.
Well, Dark Shadows did not fail to disappoint me in its level of disappointment. Oddly, this means that it cleared the threshold of disappointment and ended up mid-field on my list for the year. The cast turned in solid performances, the art and set design were creepy, moody, and interesting to look at, and there were a couple of spooky moments that actually gave me chills.
The film failed for me on two counts: First, the music. I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s, so all of the source music used in the film was familiar to me. Familiar and annoying. I’d much rather have had more of Elfman’s score. Every time some nostalgia-heavy classic rock tune came on scene I was mourned the loss of what it was crowding out. I've already HEARD that song a MILLION TIMES. Give me more Elfman.
But that’s just a taste thing.
The second failure was one of mythos. SPOILER ALERT! We have a vampire whose vampirism stems from a witch’s curse. Said witch has also cursed the entire family line, and done something to make herself immortal. If this were a Neil Gaiman or Brandon Sanderson book, the key to breaking the curse and/or killing the witch would lie somewhere in our inciting incident, or perhaps in the unfolding of the story. Not so here. The vampire curse doesn’t get broken (no big deal there. I liked that) and killing the witch requires a slug-fest, several shotgun rounds, a werewolf, a ghost, and nine-point-eight meters-per-second-squared of acceleration.
This, admittedly, may also be a taste thing. I wanted a cool puzzle, a mystery two centuries in the making, and I got explosions, fisticuffs, and gravity. For some folks that's actually plenty.
The good news? I’m ready to really enjoy a movie now. Of course, the next thing on the summer menu is Battleship. We'll see how this works out for me.