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September 27, 2012
Dark Shadows Blu-Ray Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
10/5/201226/9/2012Village RoadshowTim Burton
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1MJohnny Depp

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Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins.

Over the last 100 years of cinema there have been some legendary team-ups. People that love working, and often work, together. In modern cinema there's probably no more prevalent team-up then that between director Tim Burton, and actor Johnny Depp with Dark Shadows being their eighth movie together (others include Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Corpse Bride, Sleepy Hollow, Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, Sweeny Todd and Alice in Wonderland). So is this latest film, Dark Shadows, also magic? Well, we're not so sure about that, but here's what the film, which is based on a 1960/70s TV series is about...

After being turned into a vampire by a jilted lover, Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) is entombed for two centuries until he emerges into the very changed world of 1972. Returning to his once-majestic home, he finds the few dysfunctional descendants of the Collins family who remain. Determined to return his family name to its former glory, Barnabas is thwarted at every turn by his former lover- the seductive witch Angelique (Eva Green).

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Johnny Lee Miller and Helena Bonham Carter in Tim Burton's Dark Shadows.
Dark Shadows really kicks off with a bang with a very entertaining opening sequence however following this, when it shifts to 1972, the film tends to bog down for quite a while before it picks up in the final act. Perhaps surprisingly too, the humour in this film is rather dry and, for myself and the others the viewed the film with me, it never really sparked to become, well, amusing despite the occasional laugh out loud moment.

There's no denying however that Tim Burton still creates magical, unique looking worlds and scenarios for his films and that holds true for this film too. Collinsport really is a living, breathing city that looks wonderful - as does the mansion with the greatest attention to the finest details. Oh, and who ever knew that vampire sex could be so rough and tumble (actually, it's still somewhat tame compared to that in HBO's True Blood TV series!).

Performances in the film are decent enough; Johnny Depp is a master of transforming himself into other characters, and he does it superbly in this film although, as previously mentioned about the humour, Barnabas Collins is not the most interesting or exciting of characters, he's actually quite tame with an offbeat and dry sense of humour. A couple of other actors stood out in the film though - Eva Green is absolutely alluring as Angelique Bouchard, ChloŽ Grace Moretz is superb as the rather disturbed Carolyn in a role that reminded me of her superb turn as Hit-Girl in Kick-Ass while Jonny Lee Miller puts in a very different performance as Roger Collins while Helena Bonham Carter (Tim Burton's wife we might add for those unaware) has a pretty decent role too.

Ultimately, Dark Shadows is probably one of Burton/Depp's least inspired movies but it must be pointed out that even at their worst, or close to it, they are still better then most other "good" films from other directors and actors. Sure, this film is based on an ancient (read: 1960s), but very popular, TV series (in fact it's one of the longest running shows in history with 1225 episodes) that most Futuregamez readers would have never seen, but that doesn't make it was an inspired choice to turn into a feature film. Still, Depp/Burton fans will want to check this out, just don't expect a classic.

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ChloŽ Grace Moretz is fantastic yet again.

Dark Shadows comes to Blu-Ray in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio which is slightly modified from the filmís original 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio. We're unsure if the image has been opened up, or the sides cropped ever so slightly, but ultimately it's a very minor change. The video has been encoded in the AVC MPEG-4 codec and it's a fantastic looking film with plenty of fine detail evident even in the darker scenes, and there are certainly plenty of them. The transfer too exhibits next to no black crush. In fact, much of the film is almost black and white, with only moments of brilliant colour which pop when given the opportunity to do so.

Dark Shadows is presented on Blu-Ray with a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track (16-bit/48Khz) which is, as one would expect from such a recent film, impressive on all counts. Dialogue is crystal clear and prioritised wonderfully, while the surround sound channels and sub-woofer are given appropriate use. Composed by Danny Elfman this isn't his most memorable musical score, but it sets the tone perfectly and sounds wonderful in films sound mix.

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She's wicked, but damn Eva Green is alluring.
There aren't too many other audio options on this Blu-Ray other than an Audio Description track for the Vision Impaired which is encoded in Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448kbps. There is only one single subtitle track which is Descriptive Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired which, from our samples in the film are accurate to the dialogue in the film and also includes subtitles for the Focus Points featurette as detailed below.

There are a few extras on this Blu-Ray although they are a little light-on in the details for the most part. I would have loved to see some in-depth coverage of the franchise history, the set design and building, the visual effects and so on. Still, this is what to expect...

Focus Points:By turning this on at the start of the film all the extra content below is displayed in a PIP window (except the deleted scenes) as well as plenty of additional information primarily through interviews with cast and crew. Many of these are viewable separately as listed below.

Becoming Barnabus (5:23/HD): This first featurette looks at turning Johnny Depp into the title character for the film including the extensive make-up and costume work.

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The mess left after vampire sex!
Welcome to Collinsport! (4:26/HD): Here we have the filmmakers looking at the massive sets used in the film.

The Collinses: Every Family Has Its Demons (6:49/HD): The Collins Family is rather, well, unique and this featurette looks at the characters, and the casting.

Reliving a Decade (4:54/HD): Set in 1972 this looks at recreating the look of that decade including wardrobe, music and visual styles.

Angelique: A Witch Scorned (2:58/HD): Eva Green plays the role of Angelique and this featurette focuses on the character in the film, and her history with Barnabus. Quite promotional and with little interesting information.

Alice Cooper Rocks Collinsport (2:25/HD): The legendary Alice Cooper has a starring role in the film and this clip focuses on his performance in the film.

Dark Shadowy Secrets (3:53/HD): This featurette looks at the visual effects used throughout the film.

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Johnny Depp and Michelle Pfeiffer in Dark Shadows.
A Melee of Monstrous Proportions (3:59/HD): The final fight sequence is pretty extensive and this featurette focuses on filming that sequence.

Dark Shadows: The Legend Bites Back (2:05/HD): Another very promotional piece which aims to sell the film more than real behind-the-scenes info.

Deleted Scenes (5:39/HD): Five deleted scenes are included on the disc and while the video quality is decent, the audio is pretty average with only a 2 channel mix. The scenes themselves are interesting, but would have added little to the film.

Dark Shadows is one of Tim Burton's weaker efforts despite some of the most amazing sets and a great cast. Something just doesn't quite click, but that's not saying it's a horrible movie, far from it and with Johnny Depp starring and Tim Burton's whacky direction this is still worth a look. The transfer to Blu-Ray is top-notch and with a few extras this is a disc worth a rental at least.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyright© Village Roadshow. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.