Spending the day traveling from New York to California for Wondercon, one thought that kept dancing around my mind was how the trailer for Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows was playing for people. Finally arriving in my room, I signed up for the Internet and loaded the trailer from YouTube.
The opening intonations of Johnny Depp identifying himself as Barnabas Collins sent a chill up my spine (in a very good way). Despite the slightly British accent, he seemed to have captured Jonathan Frid’s cadence of speech From there, as Barnabas recounts his personal history, the accompanying footage is, frankly, thrilling. And then Barnabas is resurrected and, as others have suggested, I suddenly found myself in a trailer for The Addams Family. Barnabas tells the family he’s a vampire? We see him brushing his fangs? He and Angelique have wall and ceiling sex? What the hell is going on?
Attempting to be objective, I watched the trailer a second time, trying to look at it from the point of view of someone who had never seen DS before. Doing so, I could see that a lot of the humor does work and this could very well connect with a mainstream audience, but despite whatever Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have said, this is not Dark Shadows. Like the director and star, and many of you, I was an original fan of the show and if someone had asked me to go back into my memories of it, there is simply no way that this sort of thing would come to mind. I’ve often felt that there was much of Dark Shadows that was laughable, but that was mostly in the sense of the speed of production and props that didn’t work right, but mostly actors who were desperately looking for the teleprompter and their lines. At the same time, when the elements came together… well, quite frankly, there was nothing like it on television. And when Jonathan Frid was dead-on (no pun intended)? He projected incredible power and command as Barnabas.
Ironically, when Helena Bonham Carter, Eva Green, costume designer Colleen Atwood, producer Richard Zanuck and others have proclaimed how funny this version of Dark Shadows was, it turns out that at least they were telling the truth. It’s Burton and Depp that I’m kind of surprised about – how could purported fans of the show, who were certainly aware of the chord the series struck with people, take the concept in this direction? And the truly frustrating thing is that this film likely will connect with people, resulting in sequels that will be done in this same style, further distancing Dark Shadows from its roots and doing nothing to preserve the original for the future.
I’ll check the trailer out again tomorrow. Maybe my view of it is fuzzy from spending so many hours in the air, though I don’t think that’s the case. Unfortunately.