Dark Shadows (film)

Dark Shadows is a 2012 American fantasy horror comedy film based on the gothic television soap opera of the same name. It was directed by Tim Burton and stars Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Eva Green, Jackie Earle Haley, Jonny Lee Miller, Chloë Grace Moretz, and Bella Heathcote in a dual role.[2] The film had a limited release on May 10, 2012,[3] and was officially released the following day in the United States.[4]

Dark Shadows
Theatrical release poster
Directed byTim Burton
Produced by
Screenplay by
Story by
Based onDark Shadows
by Dan Curtis
Music byDanny Elfman
CinematographyBruno Delbonnel
Edited byChris Lebenzon
Distributed by
Release date
  • May 11, 2012 (2012-05-11)
Running time
113 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$150 million[1]
Box office$245.5 million[1]

The film performed poorly at the United States box office, but did well in foreign markets. The film received mixed reviews; critics praised its visual style and consistent humor but felt it lacked a focused or substantial plot and developed characters.[5] The film was produced by Richard D. Zanuck, who died two months after its release. It featured the final appearance of original series actor Jonathan Frid, who died shortly before its release. It was the 200th film appearance of actor Christopher Lee, and his fifth and final appearance in a Burton film.


In 1760, young Barnabas Collins and his wealthy family set sail from Liverpool to the New World, establishing the town of Collinsport in Maine and their grand estate, Collinwood. Fifteen years later, Barnabas spurns the advances of his servant, Angelique, secretly a witch. She murders his parents with dark magic and curses Barnabas out of jealousy so that "all he loves will die". Under the spell, his fiancée Josette falls from a cliff to her death; Barnabas throws himself after her but survives, further cursed by Angelique to eternal suffering as a vampire. Angelique turns the town against Barnabas, and buries him alive.

In 1972, Maggie Evans, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Josette, travels to Collinwood to fill the position of governess. She assumes the name Victoria Winters, and meets the dysfunctional Collins descendants: matriarch Elizabeth; her brother Roger; her teenage daughter Carolyn; Roger's young son David, who believes he sees his late mother's ghost; and live-in psychiatrist Dr. Hoffman. That night, Victoria is visited by the ghost of Josette.

A construction crew unwittingly frees Barnabas from his tomb; he apologetically feeds on their blood, and makes his way to Collinwood, perplexed by the modern-day technology and fashion he encounters. At the manor, he hypnotizes the caretaker Willie into his service, and reveals to Elizabeth that the legends of her long-lost ancestor are true. Barnabas asks to rejoin the family, and shows Elizabeth the manor's secret passages and hidden treasure. Though wary, she introduces him to the family as a distant relative from England with plans to reclaim the Collins fortune.

Elizabeth and Barnabas use his powers of persuasion and the family treasure to restore the Collins Canning Company and Collinwood to its former glory, as Barnabas adjusts to modern life and falls for Victoria. Angelique, having survived through the centuries and now owner of rival Angel Bay Seafood, is still in love with Barnabas; to protect Victoria, Barnabas gives in to Angelique's lust and they have gravity-defying sex in her office. Afterward, a remorseful Barnabas again rejects Angelique's love.

Barnabas hosts a "happening" at Collinwood for the entire town with Alice Cooper as entertainment. He finds Victoria, who reveals that she has seen the ghost of Josette her entire life; her parents committed her to an asylum, but she escaped and was drawn to Collinwood. She returns Barnabas' affections and they kiss, to Angelique's dismay.

Dr. Hoffman learns of Barnabas' true nature, and offers to drain his blood in search of a cure. He discovers her using the transfusions to de-age herself, and kills her. He confronts the greedy Roger and offers him a choice: to become a better father to David, or to leave Collinwood with enough money to live out his life elsewhere; Roger chooses the latter. Heartbroken, David is nearly struck by a falling disco ball, but Barnabas saves him with supernatural speed and catches fire in the daylight, revealing himself as a vampire to the shocked household.

Desperate, Barnabas meets with Angelique, who goads him into confessing to his murders, and demands he join her as her paramour. Barnabas refuses, and is again trapped in a coffin. Angelique destroys the Collins’ cannery and, with a recording of Barnabas' confession, rallies the town against the family. David frees Barnabas, who confronts Angelique at Collinwood. They battle, and Angelique enchants the house to turn against the family, despite the efforts of a shotgun-wielding Elizabeth and Carolyn, who outs herself as a werewolf. Angelique reveals that she was responsible for the werewolf that bit Carolyn as an infant and for the deaths of David's mother and Barnabas' parents. The ghost of David's mother incapacitates Angelique, and the household escapes the burning manor. Angelique offers Barnabas her heart, which crumbles as she dies.

He races to the cliff and finds Victoria, unwilling to live as a mortal with him, but he refuses to turn her into a vampire. She steps off the cliff, and he leaps after her, biting her as they plummet to the ground. Victoria awakens in Barnabas’ arms as a vampire, declaring herself Josette, and they passionately embrace.

The camera pans to Dr. Hoffman's corpse in the ocean, whose eyes suddenly flash open.


At the San Diego Comic-Con 2011, it was also confirmed that four actors from the original series appear in the film. In June 2011, Jonathan Frid, Lara Parker, David Selby and Kathryn Leigh Scott all spent three days at Pinewood Studios to film cameo appearances. They all appeared as party guests during a ball held at Collinwood Manor.[12][13][14] Frid died in April 2012, making this his final film appearance.


In July 2007, Warner Bros. acquired film rights for the gothic soap opera Dark Shadows from the estate of its creator Dan Curtis. Johnny Depp had a childhood obsession with Dark Shadows, calling it a "dream" to portray Barnabas Collins, and ended up persuading Burton to direct.[15] The project's development was delayed by the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike. After the strike was resolved, Tim Burton was attached to direct the film.[16] By 2009, screenwriter John August was writing a screenplay for Dark Shadows.[17] In 2010, author and screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith replaced August in writing the screenplay.[18] August did, however, receive story credit with Smith for his contribution to the film. Filming began in May 2011. It was filmed entirely in England, at both Pinewood Studios and on location.[6] Depp attempted to emulate the "rigidity" and "elegance" of Jonathan Frid's original Barnabas Collins, but also drew inspiration from Max Schreck's performance in Nosferatu.[19]

Additional crew members and Burton regulars are production designer Rick Heinrichs, costume designer Colleen Atwood, editor Chris Lebenzon and composer Danny Elfman.[6] French cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel — known for his work in Amélie, A Very Long Engagement and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince — worked on the project.



Dark Shadows: Original Score
Film score by
ReleasedMay 8, 2012
LabelWaterTower Music
Dark Shadows music chronology
Dark Shadows: Original Score
Dark Shadows: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

The film was scored by long-time Burton collaborator Danny Elfman. An album featuring 21 tracks of compositions from the film by Elfman was released on May 8, 2012.[20]

Track listing

Dark Shadows: Original Score
1."Dark Shadows Prologue" (Uncut)7:52
3."Vicki Enters Collinwood"1:21
4."Deadly Handshake"2:14
5."Shadows (Reprise)"1:08
6."Is It Her?"0:43
7."Barnabas Comes Home"4:18
8."Vicki's Nightmare"1:26
9."Hypno Music"0:47
10."Killing Dr. Hoffman"1:14
11."Dumping the Body"0:58
12."Roger Departs"2:33
13."Burn Baby Burn / In-Tombed"2:49
14."Lava Lamp"2:17
15."The Angry Mob"4:40
16."House of Blood"3:38
17."Final Confrontation"2:20
18."Widows' Hill (Finale)"3:47
19."The End?" (Uncut)2:42
20."More the End?"1:55
21."We Will End You!"1:09


Dark Shadows: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by
Various artists
ReleasedMay 8, 2012
GenreProgressive rock, psychedelic rock, hard rock, pop, R&B, orchestral
LabelWaterTower Music, Sony Music
ProducerVarious, Tim Burton
Dark Shadows music chronology
Dark Shadows: Original Score
Dark Shadows: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

The soundtrack features a score of several contemporaneous 1970s rock and pop songs, along with others from later and slightly earlier, including "Nights in White Satin" by The Moody Blues, "I'm Sick of You" by Iggy Pop, "Season of the Witch" by Donovan, "Top of the World" by The Carpenters, "You're the First, the Last, My Everything" by Barry White and "Get It On" by T. Rex. Alice Cooper, who makes a cameo in the film, sings "No More Mr. Nice Guy" and "Ballad of Dwight Fry". A cover of the Raspberries' song "Go All the Way" by The Killers also plays over the end credits. The soundtrack, featuring 11 songs (including two score pieces by Danny Elfman, and Depp's recitation as Barnabas of several lines from "The Joker" by Steve Miller Band) was released on May 8 as a download,[21] and on various dates as a CD, including on May 22 as an import in the United States,[22] and on May 25, 2012 in Australia.[23] Songs not featured on the soundtrack that are in the film include "Superfly" by Curtis Mayfield, "Crocodile Rock" by Elton John and "Paranoid" by Black Sabbath.

Track listing

Included next to each track is the year of the song's original release, excluding the score pieces.
Dark Shadows: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
1."Nights in White Satin" (1967)The Moody Blues4:26
2."Dark Shadows – Prologue"Danny Elfman3:56
3."I'm Sick of You" (1972/1973)Iggy Pop6:52
4."Season of the Witch" (1966)Donovan4:56
5."Top of the World" (1972)The Carpenters3:01
6."You're the First, the Last, My Everything" (1974)Barry White4:35
7."Bang a Gong (Get It On)" (1971)T. Rex4:26
8."No More Mr. Nice Guy" (1972/1973)Alice Cooper3:08
9."Ballad of Dwight Fry" (1971)Alice Cooper6:36
10."The End?"Danny Elfman2:30
11."The Joker" (original song from 1973)Johnny Depp0:17


Box office

The film grossed $79.7 million in the United States and Canada, and $165.8 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $245.5 million.[1]

For a Burton film, Dark Shadows achieved below-average domestic box office takings,[24] with many commentators attributing that to the domination of The Avengers.[25] It made $29.7 million in its first weekend, then $12.8 million in its second.[26]

Critical response

On Rotten Tomatoes, Dark Shadows holds an approval rating of 36% based on 252 reviews, with an average rating of 5.34/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "The visuals are top notch but Tim Burton never finds a consistent rhythm, mixing campy jokes and gothic spookiness with less success than other Johnny Depp collaborations."[5] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 55 out of 100, based on 42 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[27] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B–" on an A+ to F scale.[28]

Some critics felt that the film lacked a focused or consistent plot or genre (as either horror, comedy or drama)[29] pointing to Grahame-Smith's script, and that some jokes fell flat.[30] Some further claimed that Tim Burton and Johnny Depp's collaborations have become tired.[31][32][33] Many of the same, and other reviewers, however, noted its visual style was impressive.[34][35][36]

Positive reviewers, on the other hand, opined that the film did successfully translate the mood of the soap opera,[37] also acclaiming the actors—most notably Depp as Barnabas, who several said was the stand-out character due to his humorous culture shock,[35] as well as Pfeiffer[38]—and their characters; and further, that the film's '70s culture pastiche worked to its advantage.[39]

Roger Ebert said, "[The film] offers wonderful things, but they aren't what's important. It's as if Burton directed at arm's length, unwilling to find juice in the story." Ebert later noted that "Much of the amusement comes from Depp's reactions to 1970s pop culture," eventually concluding that the film "begins with great promise, but then the energy drains out," giving it two and a half stars out of four.[35] Manohla Dargis, writing for The New York Times, said that it "isn't among Mr. Burton's most richly realized works, but it's very enjoyable, visually sumptuous and, despite its lugubrious source material and a sporadic tremor of violence, surprisingly effervescent," and opined in a mostly positive review that Burton's "gift for deviant beauty and laughter has its own liberating power."[34]

Rolling Stone's Peter Travers gave the film a mixed two and a half stars, claiming, "After a fierce and funny start, Dark Shadows simply spins its wheels," and adding that "the pleasures of Dark Shadows are frustratingly hit-and-miss. In the end, it all collapses into a spectacularly gorgeous heap."[36] In The Washington Post, Ann Hornaday dismissed the film, awarding it just one and a half stars, explaining that "Burton's mash-up of post-'60s kitsch and modern-day knowingness strikes a chord that is less self-aware than fatally self-satisfied. Dark Shadows doesn't know where it wants to dwell: in the eerie, subversive penumbra suggested by its title or in playful, go-for-broke camp."[29]

Richard Corliss in Time pointed out that "[Burton]'s affection is evident, and his homage sometimes acute," and reasoned: "All right, so Burton has made less a revival of the old show than a hit-or-miss parody pageant," but praised the star power of the film, relenting that "attention must be paid to movie allure, in a star like Depp and his current harem. Angelique may be the only demonic among the women here, but they're all bewitching."[37] Peter Bradshaw, in the British newspaper The Guardian, weighed the film in a mixed write-up, giving it three stars out of five, and pointing out his feeling that "the Gothy, jokey 'darkness' of Burton's style is now beginning to look very familiar; he has built his brand to perfection in the film marketplace, and it is smarter and more distinctive than a lot of what is on offer at the multiplex, but there are no surprises. There are shadows, but they conceal nothing."[31]


Young Artist AwardBest Performance in a Feature Film - Supporting Young ActorGully McGrathNominated[40]
Kid's Choice AwardFavorite Movie ActorJohnny DeppWon
Saturn Awards Best Performance by a Younger Actor Chloë Grace Moretz Nominated
Best Production Design Rick Heinrichs Nominated
BMI Film & TV Awards Best Film Music Danny Elfman Won
British Society of Cinematographers GBCT Operators Award Des Whelan Nominated
Empire Awards Best Horror Film Nominated
Golden Trailer Awards Best Animation/Family Poster Warner Bros.
Ignition Creative
Best Summer 2012 Blockbuster Poster Warner Bros.
Ignition Creative
Best Wildposts Warner Bros.
Ignition Creative
Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards Best Film Tim Burton Nominated
The Operators Award Feature Film Des Whelan Nominated

Home media

Dark Shadows was released on both Blu-ray and DVD in the United States on October 2, 2012, the date confirmed by the official Dark Shadows Facebook page, and the official Dark Shadows website.[41] The film was released on both formats several days earlier in Australia; in stores on September 24, and online on September 26, 2012.[42] The film was released on October 15, 2012 in the UK.

The DVD includes just one featurette, "The Collinses: Every Family Has Its Demons",[43] while the Blu-ray contains a total of nine short featurettes and six deleted scenes.[44] Several worldwide releases of both the DVD and Blu-ray contain an UltraViolet digital copy of the film.

Cancelled sequel

In December 2011, Pfeiffer told MTV that she was hoping sequels would be made for the film.[45] On May 8 of the following year, various tabloids like Variety reported that Warner Bros. may have wanted to turn Dark Shadows into a film franchise.[46] On the same day, Collider mentioned that the ending lends itself to a possible sequel. When Burton was asked if he thought that this could be a possible start to a franchise, he replied, "No. Because of the nature of it being like a soap opera, that was the structure. It wasn't a conscious decision. First of all, it's a bit presumptuous to think that. If something works out, that's one thing, but you can't ever predict that. [The ending] had more to do with the soap opera structure of it."[19]

See also

There have been two other feature films based on the soap opera Dark Shadows:


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