By Todd Allen

You heard Johnny Depp and Tim Burton had hooked up again to produce a feature film version of the classic 1966-71 gothic horror soap opera, Dark Shadows.  Well, looks like there a trailer up for it and it just might not be quite what you were expecting.

If you wanted something closer to the original show, I guess there’s always “House of Dark Shadows.”  This version of Dark Shadows seems to follow the Dragnet / Starsky & Hutch school of satirizing the original (as opposed to the Maverick school of just doing a movie similar to the show or the Mission: Impossible school of the same name but tangentially related to the original).  Depp is doing a reasonable impersonation of the voice and speaking rhythm of Jonathan Frid, the original Barnabas Collins, albeit tweaked for comic effect.

I’ve seen a couple seasons worth of the original (playing on PBS, of all places, while I was growing up).  The basic premise seems to be fairly intact, before things veer off into the still-relatively trendy “let’s make fun of the 70s” vibe.  (Which cracks me up, since this wasn’t really much of a ’70s series.)  It also looks to be positioning itself to make fun of the glittery/sex-crazed Twilight/True Blood vampire craze.  Burton and Depp are essentially doing a Scary Movie meets Twilight meets The Brady Bunch, to judge from the trailer.

I must’ve missed the memo that said this was going to be less of a literal adaption, but given the people involved, still worth a look.


  1. A friend of mine saw and advanced screening of this, and said it was pretty good. He had no idea that it was once a series. I have to wonder if Burton and Depp did, either. Still, it does look like fun. Stupid fun, but fun.

  2. Looks fucking hopeless, missing the atmosphere of the original* utterly AND getting the period all wrong.

    *Which I’ve watched from first episode to last, all 32 DVD box sets of it.

  3. Depp has been vocal for years about being a fan of the series when he was a kid. As for not replicating the atmosphere of the original show; you’re absolutely correct. I didn’t see the shadow of a single boom mike fall on any of the actors. How could Burton get a detail like that wrong? :) I am a little disappointed. I would have loved Depp and Burton to apply a little of that Hammer vibe they had in Sleepy Hollow and Sweeney Todd to the ridiculousness of Dark Shadows. That being said, a full on comedy that embraces the classic show’s soap opera aspects looks like its going to be fun.

  4. This almost looks to me like it could have been the sequel to Beetlejuice with Johnny Depp stepping in for Michael Keaton. Putting it in that framework alone actually took me from having no interest initially to must see.

  5. I see it as akin to Beetlejuice as well. Sad, since even with its tacky effects, the original series managed to evoke a pretty solid atmosphere at times. Ah well, we have the Ben Cross version to remember.

  6. This is a sad day for DARK SHADOWS fans. Sad for fans of good entertainment in general. As for LONE RANGER fans, I’ve heard the Depp wants to play Tonto. This trailer, and that rumor, fills me with dread for the masked rider of the plains.

  7. rich, they already have a pic of Depp as Tonto…it also wasn’t what most were expecting. Google it, and see what you think…

  8. Wow.
    Does that look like crap.

    I’m often baffled by movie studios that take the time and spend the money to acquire the rights to either a book, TV show or play then totally change the entire basis behind what made the original source popular/successful.

    I mean, what do they hope to gain by doing this?

    They buy the rights to a gothic, dramatic (perhaps overly dramatic) TV series. They then (judging by this trailer), turn it into a “stuck-in-the-70’s-screwball comedy. By doing this they:

    • Turn off the fans of the property they acquired, thereby losing that audience.

    • Won’t get the younger demographic because they’ve never heard of/or don’t care about the property they acquired.

    So…. who do they think will pay $11 to see this? Just Johnny Depp fans, who’ll see him in anything? Will that make enough money for them?

    Doesn’t make any sense to me.

  9. I have never seen the original series, but I was expecting something more serious. As someone mentions above something in the realm of Burton’s & Depp’s Sleepy Hollow and Sweeney Todd.

    This movie is coming out the week after Avengers, which is tough competition and yet they are only now starting advertising for it? I thought this was going to be a 2013 summer release because of the complete lack of publicity.

  10. Well, crap. That’s not what I was expecting at all. I planned to see this as a straight gothic horror movie, but now I have no interest.

  11. I was still in high school when the series was hot, but, as I recall, it was on in the late afternoon before I usually got home (I lived quite a distance from my school, and thus took public transportation), so I can’t remember ever watching a full episode.

    Some of my friends, however, were crazy about the show. I didn’t get the hubbub though. What I saw of the show, it seemed like a kitschy gothic soap opera loosely in the Hammer Films vein — and I was firmly an early Universal horror film aficionado.

    I watched the trailer for Burton’s version, and, while I really don’t have a dog in this fight, let’s just say I was underwhelmed. Despite the fact that Burton has had some box office success with his reboots of various pop culture icons (the lone exception being “Mars Attacks,” which bombed miserably), I can’t think of one I actually liked. The reason, I believe, is because Burton often shows a significant lack of respect for the original source material (Mars Attacks and Batman being prime examples). And the fact that his films are just plain quirky does not help.

    This reboot of “Dark Shadows” looks to be more of the same.

  12. I am eagerly looking forward to this. Depp and Burton have never let me down before and I know they won’t this time, either.

  13. I don’t think that “a significant lack of respect for the original source material” is necessarily a problem. After all, it’s not as if the MARS ATTACKS trading cards represented some highwater mark of Western culture. I’d rather see a creator do something *interesting* with a property — even if it means treating the property “disrespectfully” — rather than make a picture that is reverent, respectful, and dull.

    The problem with Burton’s adaptations isn’t that they’re not faithful to the source material: it’s that, for the most part, they’re just not very good, full stop.

  14. Jack — Burton sucked the life out of the “Mars Attacks” concept by ignoring what made it a cult favorite in the first place. He just didn’t get it.

    And while I certainly don’t claim to have the last word on what would have actually worked regarding the “Mars Attacks” film, I feel I certainly had a better, clearer vision than Burton’s.

    This drawing I did back in 1998 gives a rough idea of how I would have approached the film:

  15. I’m glad someone mentioned MARS ATTACKS which was a horribly unfunny comedy. MARS ATTACKS could have been a fun sci-fi movie if handled like the wacky over the top card story was, but it was just a film filled with stunt casting which tried and tried and tried to make things funny but which kept falling flat. When I heard that MARS ATTACKS would be a parody of bad 1950s sci-fi movies my first thought was that if it wasn’t funny then all it would be was a bad 1950s sci-fi movie, which is exactly how it turned out. The thin story was stretched to the breaking point because they decided to avoid the plot of the cards in which Earth launched a retaliatory strike against Mars and invaded it, which was the best part of the card story. Tim Burton can make a bomb when he can’t see the forest for the trees, and this is exactly what DARK SHADOWS looks like. I see now why the studio waited so long to release the trailer. It looks hopeless. You know a comedy is in trouble when the trailer has nothing in it which is funny.

  16. I was a fan of the original series. I don’t mind a parody of it, or of the time around it.

    I do mind an unfunny one.

    This is just a stylish re use of every seventies cliche I’ve ever seen. A pity.

  17. R.Maharas – The reason, I believe, is because Burton often shows a significant lack of respect for the original source material (Mars Attacks and Batman being prime examples)

    Actually, I think a much better example would be Burton’s horrible “Planet of the Apes”. This Dark Shadows film looks a lot like that Apes mess. (there’s an image for you, apes mess.)

    I was 9-10 years old when Dark Shadows was at it’s height of popularity (I even had the Barnabas Collins board game, which was kind of like hangman but with skeletons) and was probably the perfect age to enjoy it. Vampires, werewolves, ghosts and time travel. You couldn’t ask for anything more.

    Well, you could ask for them not to allow Burton to bastardize it, but there you go…

  18. I hate to say this, as it’s been done to me before, but having not seen the original, this looks interesting to me.

    That said, I do hate it when people get the rights to something just to mock it rather than doing a straight up parody (Airplane! is exempt from this statement) and I also hate fish-out-of-water comedy.

    Also, is making fun of the 70’s still a thing we do? Haven’t we moved on to making fun of the 90’s or something?

  19. I just watched the trailer….awesome! I’m definitely on board for this. I never saw the original Dark Shadows, I only know of it. But Curtis Mayfield is *gold*. That had me smiling.

    I dunno – looks fun to me. Depp having fun plus Burton’s weird sensibility is always gold. I guess everyone else is upset because it’s not faithful to the original?

  20. “Also, is making fun of the 70’s still a thing we do? Haven’t we moved on to making fun of the 90’s or something?”

    Thank you for that remark! You made me LOL.

  21. Whoever name-checked “Austin Powers” – yep, right on the money.

    I’m wondering if this was originally planned as a straight adaptation, but was hastily converted to a comedy spoof during its production.

  22. Chris – I dunno – looks fun to me. Depp having fun plus Burton’s weird sensibility is always gold. I guess everyone else is upset because it’s not faithful to the original?

    If these were original characters. If Burton had actually come up with a concept of a man who’d been cursed in the 1800’s only to be brought back in the 1970’s and followed him trying to adapt, not only to the late 20th century but also with his curse, then yes, it could be a fun film.

    But note I said “original characters”. If he’d actually come up with something new.

    Instead, he takes an already established story, character, concept, etc… and uses their names only. Throwing out everything else.

    As I mentioned earlier, what’s the point? Why go to all that bother of acquiring Dark Shadows if you’re not going to use it?

  23. It’s weird, ‘cos this is exactly what I was expecting. I can’t believe anyone thought it was likely to be a straight adaptation, I can’t see how that could possibly work. I’m quite looking forward to it, but then again I like Mars Attacks as well…

  24. @Richard You really hit the nail on the head with that one. I honestly think though this is going to be a hit. Mostly since it’s Depp, Burton, and vampires. I’m not familar with Dark Shadows and assuming a lot of the general public isn’t either anymore. Maybe vaguely.

    It would have been a hit if they did a (assuming this isn’t a straight adaptation but a parody, from the reaction) straight adaptation too. It’s like oh we have Depp and Burton…why not go the other way with this! Why? Because we can! So why acquire this property? Vague name recognition of a franchise so Depp and Burton can do a vampire parody? I guess?

  25. This thread is very interesting. Seems most people who were a fan of the original or were expecting a serious gothic/horror are now not planning to see it and those people who aren’t as familiar with the original seem to be more interested after watching the trailer.

    It’ll be interesting to see if this carries over to the general release.

  26. The only Dark Shadows I remember was that horrible 90’s soap opera they made that my mom and sister used to watch. I’m not a Tim Burton fan, and I LOATHE the current vampire genre, but this actually looks fun. Maybe because it seems to loathe the current vampire genre as well.

    This and Abe Lincoln, Vampire Hunter may be the only vampire movies I watch in the next twenty years.

  27. I’d see it as well. Wonder if they changed the music in the trailer to say “In the Hall of the Mountain King” would people wanting a serious adaptation be this angry about it?

  28. This looks terrible. I knew it was going to be Burton-ized, but I was thinking more toward the darker end of the spectrum. The sad part is Burton + Depp + Vampires = gold, so it’ll make money.

    I really disliked Alice in Wonderland. I really enjoyed Mars Attacks. The main audience for Burton’s Dark Shadows has no idea what Dark Shadows is. It’s coming out in the month usually set aside for a Pirates of the Caribbean sequel, so people are already expecting new Johnny Depp. They’re going to go and it’ll be considered a win.

    What I’d rather see is the never-aired pilot for the TV series from a few years ago. I heard that was great.

    Also, that Lone Ranger photo looks terrible. Bet that movie makes money too, though.

  29. The Lone Ranger photo does look terrible.

    DARK SHADOWS should be faithful to the source material. Why? Because if this stupid-looking movie bombs, that will scuttle anything DARK SHADOWS-related for … well, maybe forever. People will point the finger at DARK SHADOWS, rather than laying the blame at the feet of the filmmakers who made an unfunny property.

  30. Burton hasn’t made a film worth watching since Ed Wood. This is a totally cynical stapling of three popular formulas. Moviemaking by way of the marketing and accounting departments. At least Depp I once had respect for.

  31. Not what I was expecting at all. I love Burton for his twisted gothic style. I mean, alot of my favorite movies are by him. So I thought he would of been a perfect fit. And with an allstar cast to boot! But this just looks alittle to comedic. That being said I will most like check it out on rental.

  32. Well, a Twilight/Depp fan was over last night. I asked her if she saw the trailer. She did. She loved it. And is looking forward to seeing the movie.

    I guess that is their target audience, and it appears that it might be working.

    I also thought it looked fun in a Beetlejuice way. So I will probably also see it.

    Neither me nor the Twilight/Depp fan are fans of the original Dark Shadows. Actually, I have never even seen an episode (if it was even episodic).

  33. More like the Adams Family than I was lead on to believe. They take a strong cast and do this. Hollywood will never surprise. Can’t wait for the Rifftrax of this.

  34. My girlfriend got me into watching the original Dark Shadows. (her mom is a diehard fan & has the whole series on dvd).

    At first I thought it was pretty lame but slowly started getting into it. I’m at the point where one of the characters (during a seance) is taken back through time to the 1700’s, and there meets the Collins family of that time, including Barnabas (before he became a vampire).

    It’s actually a pretty cool show (even with it’s occasional flaws and all) and I’ve grown to really like it. So when we heard of the new Dark Shadows flick being released, my girlfriend & I were all stoked. We were really looking forward to a serious Gothic horror movie hit. But now after watching the trailer we’re like, WTF ??! Seriously ??! It totally blows! Yeah, we’re disappointed as hell & now not gonna watch it. Burton really seems to have killed it BIG TIME! I mean it seriously sucks MAJOR ass! What a damn waste!

  35. I have to agree. This blows! I’ve seen part of the original and the short-lived remake they did in the 90’s and this movie is “Dark Shadows” in name only! I would love to see a serious adaptation of the show but it looks like it’s never going to happen now. And when will Johnny Depp stop channeling Jack Sparrow?!

  36. Yeah, I have to agree with the “this blows” sentiment. I loved the original series (I mean, I understand that I really love cheesy, with big extra helpings of cheese on the side), cheesy though it was. They did a very good job of creating a somber, moody vibe different from anything else on tv at the time. This just looks like a trendy parody, not even good or witty enough to be considered satire. Someone could have done this and posted it on YouTube for a whole lot less money, and I would guess that any more than 15 minutes of this will not be so funny anyhow.

  37. This looks ridiculous, nothing like the original. If they wanted to make a ridiculous vampire movie, why lampoon what was a great show with a loyal fan base?They should have just gone with all new characters and left the originals in their graves.

  38. Tim Burton doesn’t make films to please others, he makes films to push limits which is the very essence of him as a person and his work.

    I suggest you watch Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, and other films of his to get a real grip on his style. It is not tied to an era. Sure he brings concepts or bases story-lines in eras but that never limits him, and why should it?

    Tim Burton does not make every film one of utmost realism and seriousness. It’s called entertainment for a reason; whether or not the majority of people like it or don’t.

    I personally can’t wait to see it! I’ve been waiting a year for it and I have been a loyal fan of his work for years now :D