Dark Shadows (2012)


Reveal Yourself, Tiny Songstress!

Today’s movie was requested by my roommate Richurd. When he requested it, I suggested that he may have to wait until November for me to review it since it didn’t really feel like a horror movie. “It has vampires, witches, and werewolves in it!” he exclaimed, and then proceeded to beat me savagely. Once I awoke, I relented and agreed to review the movie as part of the October Horrorthon. The movie itself was one I knew about when it came to theaters, but had exactly zero desire to watch it. I didn’t know the source material and every commercial for the movie I saw fell flat on its face by way of comedy as far as I was concerned. But it’s a request and so I bring to you my review of Dark Shadows, written by Seth Grahame-Smith, directed by Tim Burton, and starring Johnny Depp, Eva Green, Bella Heathcote, Michelle Pfeiffer, Chloë Grace Moretz, Helena Bonham Carter, Jackie Earle Haley, Jonny Lee Miller, Gulliver McGrath, Christopher Lee, and Alice Cooper.

In 1760, the Collins family moves from Liverpool to Maine to set up a fishing industry, naming the town Collinsport. They make lots of money and all is going well … until their son Barnabas (Johnny Depp) seduces the maid Angelique (Eva Green). She confesses that she loves him, but he does not feel the same. Also, she’s a witch. She takes it out on his family, getting them killed by a falling statue. Barnabas eventually falls in love with Josette du Pres (Bella Heathcote), but the jealous Angelique bewitches her and makes her leap from a cliff. Barnabas tries to follow her, but finds that Angelique has turned him into a vampire. She then gets a mob to lock him in a coffin for 212 years. That’s when a group of construction workers inadvertently frees Barnabas, allowing him to return to his family – matriarch Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer), her brother Roger (Jonny Lee Miller), her 15-year-old daughter Carolyn (Chloë Grace Moretz), Roger’s 10-year-old son David (Gulliver McGrath), David’s psychiatrist Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter), and the manor’s caretaker Willie Loomis (Jackie Earle Haley) – just in time to greet David’s newly-hired caretaker Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcote), who is Josette’s reincarnation. But Barnabas will soon find that Angelique is still very much alive, and still very much scorned.

The best thing I could say about this movie is that it lived up to my expectations. The worst thing I could do is define those expectations. But I’ll do it anyway. I can’t say that Dark Shadows was a bad movie, but it’s very far from a good one. If its intentions were to be a horror movie, it was too goofy. If it wanted to be an action movie, it was too boring. If it was to be a mystery & suspense movie as Rotten Tomatoes claims it to be, then I probably shouldn’t have been able to go into the movie knowing exactly how it would turn out. Sadly, I think it wanted to be a comedy, but it also wasn’t funny. It tries to go for a lot of wordplay and dry wit that I’m sure made the British version of this stuff popular (assuming that it ever was, which I have not looked into), but the jokes used in this movie were too dry and lacked wit … or were just stupid. A lot of the movie after Barnabas returns to the 70’s just feels like the pitch for the movie was, “What if Austin Powers … wait for it … were a vampire!” Oh look at him as he doesn’t understand things because he’s been away for a long time! He thinks Alice Cooper is a lady! HILARIOUS! And on top of all that, the movie just wasn’t interesting. The family wasn’t likeable until the very end when they finally became more interesting, but I was long lost by then. All that being said, this is a Tim Burton movie, so the look of the movie is generally worth notation. It has a cool, creepy, dark look to the whole movie, but at a certain point I’m going to require more out of Tim than that. Also, I don’t know if it was intentional because they wanted to pay homage to the British version, but Johnny Depp looked goofy the entire movie. I was not buying that look.

The cast in this movie was filled with amazing names … who didn’t seem to want to try that hard. This is not a surprising performance for Johnny Depp. It’s a little bit like Captain Jack Sparrow without a drinking problem. Michelle Pfeiffer did not seem altogether invested in the movie. Eva Green was a little over the top, but so was her hotness. Chloë Grace Moretz was never interesting to me until the very end where she turned into something interesting … and then did nothing with it. Jackie Earle Haley came close to being funny a few times. I also didn’t like Gulliver McGrath, but more for the way he was written. How the hell is a kid going to see ghosts for his entire life, but freak out when he finds out the guy that’s been living with his family for a few months while being perfectly nice to him is a vampire?

I kind of feel like I wasted a bit of my time by watching Dark Shadows, but hopefully you don’t feel that you wasted time reading my review. This movie was not funny and not interesting, the actors didn’t seem into it, and I wasn’t either. I had/have no interest in the source material, so I have no idea if it holds up, but I do know that there’s not a lot of reason to watch this movie. It’s not an awful movie, but there are better ways to spend your time. Dark Shadows gets “It is with sincere regret that I must now kill all of you” out of “They tried stoning me, my dear. It did not work.”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people. Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense. Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated. You can also add me on FaceBook and Twitter. Don’t forget to leave me some comments. Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)


However History Remembers Me Before I Was a President, It Shall Only Remember a Fraction of the Truth…

Today’s movie had only ever gotten so far as to pique my interest.  It seemed like a novel concept, but the movie itself never really seemed like it’d be much more than that.  Still, I had my mind set on seeing the movie, and thought often of catching a show when I was at the theaters, but something better was always a higher priority.  Eventually, the movie had left the mainstream theaters and I figured I would have to just wait for it to be on DVD to check it out.  But recently I was realizing that I haven’t made it to a theater for a little while, so I decided to see what was playing.  Nothing at the mainstream theaters, but this movie had just arrived at the dollar cinema.  I’d always entertained the idea of seeing a movie at a dollar cinema, and decided this was as good a time as any.  And that’s how I came to watch Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, based on a novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, directed by Timur Bekmambetov, and starring Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rufus Sewell, Anthony Mackie, Marton Csokas, Jimmi Simpson, Erin Wasson, and Alan Tudyk.

Before we talk about the movie proper, I think we need to talk about the cinema-going experience.  I should have been able to predict while going to this theater that it would be of a slightly lower quality than a full price theater, but I didn’t quite expect it to be really small and not visible from the main road because it was stationed behind a Dunkin Donuts.  That I can deal with.  What I cannot deal with is the lower quality of people that would typically be found in this theater, namely the six tweens that were seated a row behind me.  What kind of piece of shit feels the need to talk all the way through a movie at full volume and often saying nothing more interesting than verbalizing what’s on the screen?  I’ve been known to talk in a movie, but I also typically try to only say funny things a la Mystery Science Theater, I always speak in whisper, and I generally assume that the people around me can see what’s on the screen.  People don’t need the narration, “OH!  He’s all old now!”  We understand how prosthetics work.  Would it really have been that bad of a thing for me to go over to the tweens and threaten to beat them within an inch of their lives?  Or if I had actually done it?  Or if I then tried to fit their mangled bodies in the trash cans they bring in to clean the theater?  Perhaps I’ve said too much …  Anyways, back to the movie!

As a young man, Abraham Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) witnesses a plantation owner, and vampire, named Jack Barts (Marton Csokas) bite his mother, killing her.  Nine years later, Lincoln is still focused on getting his revenge on his mother’s murderer, but he underestimates the vampire and gets his ass kicked, until being saved by Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper).  He convinces Sturgess to train him to be a vampire hunter before being sent to Springfield, Illinois, where Sturgess will send him to kill vampires around the town.  He takes a job with Joshua Speed (Jimmi Simpson) and falls in love with Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), both of which go against Sturgess’ orders to not get close to anyone that can be used against him by the vampires.  He also gets reunited with his black childhood friend, William Johnson (Anthony Mackie) who tells Lincoln of a vampire named Adam (Rufus Sewell) who owns a plantation in New Orleans with his sister, Vadoma (Erin Wasson), and frequently use slaves as food, since they don’t count as people and no one will care.  Lincoln then sets his aims on becoming the President of the United States so that he can abolish slavery and stop the vampires at their food source.

This movie didn’t work for me.  I’m not entirely sure if the movie was entirely to blame or the horrible cinema conditions, but I can’t say I was too fond of it.  I give the movie credit for being creative, but it lacks surprise and isn’t very deep.  I don’t think the creativity of the movie begs much for explanation; deciding to write a whole story about one of our presidents as a killer of vampires is not an easy thing to jump to.  It seems like something that someone said as a joke while completely high and later decided to turn into a movie.  But you still have to make the movie interesting, and I didn’t find that much of it all that compelling.  I allow for the possibility that the narrating retards sitting an aisle back may have been a constant and annoying distraction, and my brain spent a bulk of the time thinking about how satisfying it would be to punch them in their faces, but the lack of surprises in the movie is obvious.  That’s probably mainly due to the fact that you pretty much already know exactly how this story will go, so long as you stayed awake through American History class in high school.  Just take the story of Abraham Lincoln’s life and add vampires as his motivations.  That’ll about cover the story.  I also found the dialogue unimpressive in most parts of the story, which was particularly noticeable coming out of the mouth of the guy that gave one of the most memorable speeches in history.  Another thing that occurred to me in this movie is one of the staples of vampire lore, but why is the oldest vampire always the most powerful?  I understand them having experienced the most stuff and thusly possibly being the most intelligent, but shouldn’t age either have detrimental effects on them like it does on us, or at least have no effect on them because they don’t age?  They all come from the same blood, after all.

I had some issues with the look and the action of the movie too, but some of it made me question whether or not it was also tied to the shitty cinema.  Were some of the graphics in the movie sub-par, or were they being projected poorly?  In most instances, I blame the movie.  I first started noticing it in the scene where Lincoln was fighting a vampire in a stampede of horses.  I got the distinct feeling that they chose this location and cause the horses to kick up so much dust to hide the fact that the horses were kind of goofy looking and unconvincing.  It didn’t really work.  They did a similar thing later when they were fighting on top of a train and the smoke plume was obscuring the vision in the scene.  But I can forgive subpar graphics.  What actually hurts the movie is that the action just isn’t that interesting.  I don’t think I ever really had a drive to see Abraham Lincoln fight vampires with an axe, and I certainly would care less if he couldn’t even hold onto that axe very long.  Some of the action scenes were interesting enough, but it didn’t really impress.  I thought the gun that Lincoln had in the bottom of his axe was an interesting idea, and I didn’t really see it coming, but I never got a lot more than that.

The performances in the movie were fine, but I literally have next to nothing to say about them.  I was excited to see both Alan Tudyk and Mary Elizabeth Winstead in this movie.  …That’s literally everything I have.

Basically, I would say that Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter started with a cool and creative idea, but never evolved past the idea.  The story was an interesting idea, but filled with dialogue that lacked a quality anywhere near the likes of the person they based their movie on.  The graphics were not fantastic and it often seemed like they were trying to obscure it with particulates, but the action was decent enough, though not impressive.  And the performances were okay.  Add that all up and I’d say you’d be okay skipping this movie.  It was probably worth the dollar I paid to see it, but not worth the annoyance of the people in the theater.  It was enough to make me want to shoot them and jump up on stage yelling, “Sic semper tyrannis!”  Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter gets “History prefers legends to men” out of “There is darkness EVERYWHERE!”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook and Twitter.  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.