Dark Shadows
Theatrical release poster
Directed byTim Burton
Screenplay bySeth Grahame-Smith
Story by
Based onDark Shadows
by Dan Curtis
Produced by
CinematographyBruno Delbonnel
Edited byChris Lebenzon
Music byDanny Elfman
Distributed by
Release dates
  • May 7, 2012 (2012-05-07) (Los Angeles premiere)
  • May 10, 2012 (2012-05-10) (Australia)
  • May 11, 2012 (2012-05-11) (United States)
Running time
113 minutes[1]
  • United States
  • Australia[2]
Budget$150 million[1]
Box office$245.5 million[1]

Dark Shadows is a 2012 dark fantasy film based on the gothic television soap opera of the same name. Directed by Tim Burton, the film 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.[3] Christopher Lee has a small role in the film, his 200th film appearance and his fifth and final appearance in a Burton film. Jonathan Frid, star of the original Dark Shadows series, makes a cameo appearance. He died shortly before the film was released. One of the film's producers, Richard D. Zanuck, died two months after its release.

The film had a limited release on May 10, 2012,[4] and was officially released the following day in North America.[5] It performed poorly at the United States box office, but did well in foreign markets. Reviews for the film were mixed; critics praised its visual style and consistent humor, but felt it lacked a focused or substantial plot and developed characters.[6]


In 1760, a young Barnabas Collins and his wealthy Collinwood family moved from Liverpool to Maine, where they established the town of Collinsport and constructed the Collinwood Mansion. Fifteen years later, Barnabas is engaged to Josette while having an affair with Angelique, who is secretly a witch, but he refuses any further advances. Enraged, she murders his parents using magic and curses Barnabas. Angelique casts a spell on Josette, making her jump to her death from a cliff called Widows Hill. Distraught, Barnabas attempts to fall to his death but fails because Angelique has cursed him into a vampire. She turns the town against him, and he is buried alive.

In 1972, Maggie Evans, under the alias of Victoria Winters, is hired as governess for the Collins family consisting of the Collins matriarch, Elizabeth; her teenage daughter Carolyn; Elizabeth's brother: Roger, and his young son, David, who believes he is being visited by his late mother's ghost; and a live-in alcoholic psychiatrist, Dr. Julia Hoffman. Meanwhile, a construction crew unwittingly frees Barnabas from his tomb before he kills them.

At Collinwood, Barnabas hypnotizes the caretaker, Willie, and reveals to Elizabeth that the family curse is true. He asks to rejoin the family and shows Elizabeth the manor's secret passages and hidden treasure. Meanwhile, Angelique is running a rival cannery called Angel Bay Seafood. After discovering that Barnabas has escaped, she goes to Collinwood to confront him, reminding Barnabas of her powers and popularity with the town before she leaves.

While adjusting to modern life and falling for Victoria, Barnabas uses his powers and the family treasure to restore the Collinwood family business. Dr. Hoffman learns of his true nature and offers to try to turn him mortal by removing his corrupted blood and giving him transfusions of human blood. Angelique arranges a meeting with Barnabas. She begs him to love her back, but he refuses, so she vows to destroy his family and Victoria.

Barnabas hosts a "happening" at Collinwood for the entire town. He meets Victoria, who reveals she has been seeing Josette's ghost her whole life. Her parents committed her to an asylum, but she eventually escaped, and Josette directed her to Collinwood. Determined to be human again, Barnabas goes to Dr. Hoffman's office, where he discovers that she deceived him so she could turn herself into a vampire and avoid death from old age. Barnabas kills her, and he and Willie dump her body at sea.

After discovering Roger attempting to break into the secret passage that leads to the hidden fortune, Barnabas confronts Roger and offers him a choice: to become a better father or leave Collinwood; Roger chooses the latter. Heartbroken, David is nearly struck by a falling disco ball, but Barnabas saves him before catching on fire in the daylight, revealing himself as a vampire to the whole family and Victoria. Feeling that they will never accept him, Barnabas meets with Angelique, who goads him into confessing to his murders and demands he join her as her paramour. He refuses, so she again traps him in a coffin. Angelique destroys the Collins' cannery and, with a recording of Barnabas' confession, rallies the town to storm Collinwood Manor.

David frees Barnabas, who confronts Angelique at Collinwood. They battle, and the townspeople see that she is a witch. Carolyn, who is revealed to be a werewolf, joins the fight, and Angelique uses her enchantments to subdue them. She admits she was responsible for the werewolf that bit Carolyn as an infant and for the deaths of David's mother. The ghost of David's mother appears and incapacitates Angelique, and the family escapes the burning manor. Angelique offers Barnabas her heart, but he refuses; she then crumbles into dust.

Barnabas races to Widow's Hill and finds Victoria, who says she has to be a vampire if they are to be together. When he refuses, she falls off the cliff. He leaps after her, biting her neck. Now a vampire, she awakens as Josette, with his curse lifted. Meanwhile, Dr. Hoffman, bound and on the sea floor, is resurrected by Barnabas’ blood and becomes a vampire.


At the San Diego Comic-Con 2011, it was confirmed that four actors from the original series would 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 guests during the ball held at Collinwood Manor and can be seen arriving as a group.[15][16][17] 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 Tim Burton to direct.[18] The project's development was delayed by the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike. After the strike was resolved, Burton was attached to direct the film.[19]

By 2009, screenwriter John August was writing a screenplay for Dark Shadows.[20] In 2010, author and screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith replaced August,[21] but, on the finished film, August did receive story credit with Smith for his contributions to the film.

Filming began in May 2011. Production took place entirely in England, at both Pinewood Studios and on location.[7] Depp attempted to emulate the "rigidity" and "elegance" of Jonathan Frid's original portrayal, but also drew inspiration from Max Schreck's performance in Nosferatu.[22]

A number of Burton's frequent collaborators worked on the film's crew, among them production designer Rick Heinrichs, costume designer Colleen Atwood, editor and executive producer Chris Lebenzon, and composer Danny Elfman.[7] French cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel—known for his work in Amélie, A Very Long Engagement and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince—also worked on the project.



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.[23]

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

A number of contemporaneous early-1970s rock and pop songs appear in the film, along with others from earlier and slightly later. These include "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 makes a cameo in the film and sings "No More Mr. Nice Guy" and "Ballad of Dwight Fry". A cover of the Raspberries' song "Go All the Way" by The Killers plays over the end credits.

Dark Shadows: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack was released on May 8, 2012, as a download[24] and on various dates as a CD, such as on May 22 as an import in the United States[25] and on May 25 in Australia.[26] It features 11 songs, among them two score pieces by Danny Elfman and a recitation by Depp as Barnabas of several lines from "The Joker" by Steve Miller Band. Songs not featured on the soundtrack that are in the film include "Superfly" by Curtis Mayfield, "Crocodile Rock" by Elton John, "Paranoid" by Black Sabbath and "Monster" by Skillet.

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,[27] with many commentators attributing that to the domination of The Avengers.[28] It made $29.7 million in its first weekend, then $12.8 million in its second.[29]

Critical response

On Rotten Tomatoes, Dark Shadows holds an approval rating of 35% based on 259 reviews, with an average rating of 5.30/10; 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."[6] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 55 out of 100, based on 42 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[30] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B−" on an A+ to F scale.[31]

Some critics felt the film lacked a focused or consistent plot or genre (as either horror, comedy or drama),[32] pointing to problems with Grahame-Smith's script, and that some jokes fell flat.[33] Some claimed that Burton and Depp's collaborations had become tired.[34][35][36] Many of these same critics, however, noted that this film's visual style was impressive.[37][38][39]

Positive reviewers, on the other hand, opined that the film successfully translated the mood of the soap opera[40] and that its '70s culture pastiche worked to its advantage.[41] There was also acclaim for the characters and actors, most notably Depp as Barnabas—who several critics said was the stand-out character due to his humorous culture shock[38]—and Pfeiffer.[42]

Roger Ebert gave the film two-and-a-half stars out of four and 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." He went on to note that "Much of the amusement comes from Depp's reactions to 1970s pop culture," and concluded that the film "begins with great promise, but then the energy drains out".[38] Manohla Dargis, in a mostly-positive review written for The New York Times, said that the film "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 that Burton's "gift for deviant beauty and laughter has its own liberating power."[37]

Rolling Stone's Peter Travers gave the film a mixed two-and-a-half stars out of four, claiming that "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."[39] In The Washington Post, Ann Hornaday dismissed the film, awarding it just one-and-a-half stars out of four and 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."[32]

Richard Corliss of 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."[40] 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."[34]


Award Category Recipient Result Ref.
Young Artist Award Best Performance in a Feature Film - Supporting Young Actor Gully McGrath Nominated [43]
Kid's Choice Award Favorite Movie Actor Johnny Depp Won
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).[44] It was released on both formats several days earlier in Australia; in stores on September 24, and online on September 26.[45] The film was released on home video in the UK on October 15.

The DVD includes just one featurette, "The Collinses: Every Family Has Its Demons",[46] while the Blu-ray contains a total of nine short featurettes and six deleted scenes.[47] Several worldwide releases of both the DVD and Blu-ray contain an UltraViolet digital copy of the film.

Possible sequel

In December 2011, Pfeiffer told MTV that she was hoping there would be sequels to the film.[48] On May 8, 2012, various tabloids, like Variety, reported that Warner Bros. may have wanted to turn Dark Shadows into a film franchise.[49] On the same day, Collider mentioned that the ending lends itself to a possible sequel. When Burton was asked if he thought 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."[22]

See also

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


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