You’ve heard the rumor that you cannot simply kill (in ordinary fashion) a vampire. Sadly, this is true. I can say with confidence that even 30 pieces of silver bullets could not slay Tim Burton’s latest theatrical beast. I know this now, after I took the bait; Johnny Depp in anything has to have some merit – right? Wrong!
I am not a disgruntled Dark Shadows follower from 1971 left to simmer in some angry stew of TV show cancellation. My vampire interests began and ended with Anne Rice’s trilogy on the vampire theme. So, when I saw the trailer in which the unlawfully beautiful teenager, Carolyn (Chloe Grace Moretz) asks Barnabus if he is “stoned” and heard Depp’s 17th century verbal play on the word, I thought I’d get to see vintage Depp via a humorous Burton retelling. Unfortunately that trailer presented just one of the two humorous scenes in the movie. Now that I think about it, the movie was so bad I can’t remember the other funny scene.
That Barnabus Collins comes back to 1972 fairly screams humorous potential. Somehow the writer(s) could not find enough going on in that year at which to poke fun. (Which is a strange occurrence in itself.) How could a writer not be able to inject political humor into this beast with the Watergate break-in being in the news? As the surly teen, Carolyn, watches TV news couldn’t Depp have something clever put in his mouth (besides the obligatory canines) like a timely (and somewhat suggestive) reference to ‘deep throat?’ 1972 saw the passing of the Equal Rights Amendment (surprising in light of today’s attempts to backtrack on this progress) so couldn’t the very male Barnabus reference his superiority to Angelique (Eva Green) in a clever way of course. And what about George “segregation forever” Wallace? Barnabus could find himself with three silver bullets as he comes into a room confronted with four real bad guys: a Nazi war criminal, Idi Amin, George Wallace, and the inventor of the jump suit; our hero wastes not a minute dispatching Wallace – unloading all three bullets into the southern ‘guvna’.
1972 was a year of real film making, what about the movie The Godfather? Vito Corleone meets Barnabus Collins, or Eastwood’s Dirty Harry? And for the frightening random violence of A Clockwork Orange – make it less so by getting Barnabus in there to show who’s boss. And let us not forget The Brady Bunch, a TV series known to kill bricks – (and should still be held for crimes against television-watching humanity) yet not one mention. Come on DS writers, this stuff practically writes itself. And what was up with Alice Cooper? All the deadly, spooky makeup in the world couldn’t stop that insipid music coming from this guy. The only positive thing I can say here is at least he had the courage to play himself. This takes some of the heat off the writers.
If the year were not interesting enough for DS writers, couldn’t they have livened up the competition for the best fishing fleet in Maine by, say, having Barnabus (unable to secure men to fish) going out on one of the boats hypnotizing the fish right into the boat? Couldn’t Barnabus mesmerize the town and highlight the power of money to assuage all fears of vampires, werewolves and ’57 Chevy wagons? And the sex scene… Really?
Call this Monday morning quarterbacking, or governing politics from the comfort of a television news studio but the cinematic bulls-eye was missed with Burton’s Dark Shadows. I would have preferred a closing scene of driving (the ’57 Chevy wagon) into the red-orange sunset past a sign of George McGovern waving under the caption “Y’all are gonna miss me when I’m gone.” True that.