'Dark Shadows' shows stunning lack of discernment

I can see the criticisms in the “comments” section below now: “Lighten up, man. It’s just a movie.”

And that illustrates exactly the point I intend to make.

A movie is a mere trifling, a toying with ideas and images depicted on screen for entertainment – but how do you suppose God would advise us on toying and trifling with Satan?

If you believe, as the Bible clearly teaches, there really is a prince of darkness who works in the shadows “looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8) – a master deceiver who would tempt all people toward their own decay and destruction without ever tipping his hand to reveal his face – then reducing his presence to a mere joke would seem to play right into his plan, would it not?

And for the actors themselves, laughing about him as though he were a toy, readily invoking him with no thought of the consequence but to dismiss him as an archaic myth, seems a foolish thing to do, does it not, if the devil really is the diabolical demon the Scriptures make him out to be?

In short, unless you think the Bible a farce, how can you make a farce like “Dark Shadows”?

Not only is the movie not funny – seriously, it’s one of the worst major films of the year so far – but its subject matter is equally no laughing matter.

The film begins somewhat promising, telling the story of a 1700s New England fishing tycoon (played by Johnny Depp) who spurns a witch’s love and is cursed by her to become a vampire. The witch then locks him in a box, where he remains until awakened in 1972.

For a few moments, the film promises to be amusing, with Depp’s formal, erudite character confronting the hippy world of 1972, nearly 200 years out of his native time. Depp plays the character brilliantly and begins a fish-out-of-time tale rife with comedic promise.

Unfortunately, the promise is left woefully unfulfilled, as the story too quickly swerves off the rails to reintroduce the long-lived witch as a modern-day corporate shark determined to seduce her old flame. Gone is the witty comedy, replaced by a sleazy soap opera, which then switches gears again and becomes a supernatural showdown.

In the resultant, unholy mess, the movie’s conflict falls flat, the side characters are left undeveloped and the “villain” is stripped of any real depth, leaving Depp without any meaningful foil to draw out his protagonist’s fiber.

The net effect is a film that tries in vain to be too many things, succeeding at none.

And it’s too bad the film was so determined to be vapid and soulless, for there were opportunities to explore some intriguing themes, including the vampire’s admission of being “a sinner,” an allusion to “purifying” the blood, talk of forgiveness and justice and even an acknowledgement that “there are things in the is world we don’t understand, like magic, death and destiny.”

But these brief moments when the script could have shown some life quickly faded into the dead flatness that was most of the movie.

Even if it was a good film, however, we’re left with director Tim Burton’s morbid fascination with the occult, which borders, frankly, on necrophilia (see “Corpse Bride” or the final scene of this movie).

Depp’s character, for example, beyond being a vampire, studies black magic, invokes “Satan’s true name” (according to the film) Mephistopheles, calls the witch “a whore of Beelzebub … succubus of Satan … harlot of the devil” and most significantly, shouts the lines, “Show yourself to me, Satan!” and, “Have at me Lucifer; my soul is prepared!”

Acting or not, I sincerely hope for Depp’s sake Lucifer doesn’t take him up on the invitation.

According to Christian doctrine, this “devil” character gleefully tears apart marriages to divorce, lures pedophiles to abuse children, inflames rapists to act, fills megalomaniacs like Adolf Hitler with schemes of mass murder and has the power to possess men’s souls to self-destruction and everlasting torment in hell.

And we’re going to make a joke of it? Johnny Depp is going to call out for the beast’s presence in his soul?

I don’t suggest we go looking for devils under every rock, but I do suggest the American culture show a little more respect when handling the most potent evil force in the universe.

Content advisory:

“Dark Shadows,” rated PG-13, contains roughly 20 obscenities and profanities.
The film’s violence is present, but scaled back, with much of the vampire’s killing done off screen. There are, however, a few scenes of the vampire biting his victims. Most of the more graphic violence is present in two scenes – the first of which is played for laughs as the vampire and witch trash an apartment in a supernaturally-charged, rough sex scene, the second a climactic battle scene between the vampire’s family and the witch, including gunfire, choking, crashing, biting, slashing and magical hijinks.
The movie’s sexuality, outside of some kisses, innuendos, a couple of lewd jokes and an implied oral sex scene, focuses on the modern-day witch. She dresses provocatively, shows off a lot of cleavage and leg and actively works to seduce the vampire. In one over-the-top scene that was supposed to be funny, the pair engage in a supernaturally-charged, rough sex scene. Though there’s no nudity, the pair roll around the walls, floor, furniture and ceiling of an apartment, breaking and smashing everything in their path. She licks him (again for laughs, I suppose) with a long, serpentine tongue, and there’s plenty of grunting and moaning, but all done for comedic effect. Some audiences will find it funny; others, frankly, will find it juvenile and even disgusting.
The film contains little religious content, but is dripping with occult references. In addition to what is detailed in the review above, there are spoken spells, ghosts, a werewolf, talk of curses and some references to damnation.

I’m looking forward to seeing the movie.

I read it was ranked #2 on it’s open weekend, and I like Burton’s humor, though it is dark.

It looks disgusting and I would never watch it. Very occult, like Tim Burtons other movies.

Definitely one to keep away from the kids until they reach the age where they won’t be so impressionable to this kind of negative influence. As for adults, use your best judgement based on your own conscience and personality. If you like these kind of movies (and obviously don’t give any credence to the occult aspect) then watch away. But this does not sound like the kind of movie that you should load the kids in the van for.

The whole point was that the occult was ripping apart Barnebas’s soul. He invocations of Satan resulted in nothing but pain - though perhaps this pain was lost in the slapstick humor.

In the 1970’s, Barnebus doesn’t so much invoke Satan, as attempt to call Satan out of hiding. He accusing Satan of being a coward for hiding in the dark shadows (ha!).

Its also important to realize, from a Christian perspective, Satan is not “Evil Incarnate”. He is simply a highly intelligent person. He can confuse and discourage, but cannot cause another person to commit sin. People choose to do evil on their own.

Its neither healthy to reduce Satan to a complete farce, nor to exaggerate his power.

Is this meant to be criticism of Dark Shadows in general? Or just this particular movie version of it?

It is not clear to me.

Hansel Paul, do you mind sharing how old you are? (You don’t have to be exact, just give us idea of the range–under 20, 20-30, etc.

Also, did you watch the original series? If you were too young to watch it back then, have you watched it on DVD lately?

Did you watch the 1990 mini-series, which was produced by Dan Curtis (the producer of the orginal series).

Do you know anything at all about Dark Shadows other than what you saw in the Burton/Depp film?

You say that “the actors” laugh at Satan and make a joke. Are you talking about the actors or the characters (Barnabas, Julia, Elizabeth, Carolyn, etc.) in the film? I very confused about this. Could you please clarify?

You do realize that the film isn’t meant to be a “witty comedy,” right? It has lots of fun moments, but it is meant to be a romantic thriller with Gothic overtones, just like the old show.

The film is based on a soap opera, a dramatic soap opera, that became a huge hit across the United States back in 1968, when a forty-four-year-old actor named Jonathan Frid signed on for a six-week contract to play the part of a vampire named Barnabas Collins. He did such a great job playing the part that his contract was extended, and for the next few years, the show attracted around 20 million viewers every afternoon–quite an accomplishment in 1968 for an afternoon soap opera that many people couldn’t watch even if they wanted to because they were at school or at work. (No VCRS back then.)

Many of his fans were children and teenagers like me and my husband. I was 11 when I first watched Dark Shadows.

I’m not sure if I can convey just how hugely popular Dark Shadows was back in the 1960s. The actors, even though they were in their 40s, were all featured regularly in the teenaged magazines. When they made personal appearances, mobs showed up. Frid even appeared at the White House at the request of the Nixon family to entertain at a Halloween party for disadvantaged children. (Many small children absolutely adored Barnabas Collins.)

It was like the Beatles–a phenomenon. There were comic books, tradings cards, novels, toys, etc.–many of us still have a lot of these items, and some of them are worth money.

The show was never a farce or a comedy, and if it was “campy,” it was campy because it was taped live, so all the actors’ mistakes were left in, not edited out.

The show was played seriously by the actors, and taken seriously by the fans. Yes, we all knew that it was a fantasy, all pretend, but that was OK. Many children like me were inspired to begin using our imaginations and get involved with various creative endeavors. Johnny Depp and Tim Burton were two of those children who watched the show. Another famous person who loved the show as a child is Steven King.

There are many people who are not so famous who watched the show and credit it with helping them to become more creative and involved with the arts. I’m one of those–I began doing a lot of creative writing during the show, and have never stopped. I’m not a best-selling authoress, but I’ve been able to use my writing to help people and make my own life more interesting.

One other problem that I have with your post is that you accuse “the actors” in the film of having no respect for Satan. I thought just the opposite–I found the final battle between Barnabas and Angelique, with the rest of the Collins family fighting to save their family, thrilling and a very good allegory of what life is like for those of us who are Christians. I just don’t see what you are seeing. Did you think that Barnabas was making fun of Satan? This tells me that you don’t understand the character of Barnabas Collins–he was called “the reluctant vampire” back in the 1970s–he hated being a monster and was constantly seeking a way to be released from the curse.

I can kind of agree with you about developing the secondary characters. It was very difficult for the screenplay writers, since the original series was on TV everyday for five years, over 1200 episodes, so there were years and years to develop all the characters that you saw in the movie. There were literally a hundred characters on the old show, and I find it amazing that the screenplay writer was able to select only a few of these wonderful characters for this film.

Those of us who know the old series (and the 1990 miniseries, along with all the fan fiction and the Marilyn Ross novels) KNOW these characters as well as we know our own family, so we really didn’t need them to be developed in the film. I KNEW that David’s mother would be there for him because I KNEW the old show and I remember the character of Laura Collins, David’s mother.

But for someone who is new to Dark Shadows, I can see why it might have been kind of confusing at times because they would not have this five year preparation!

Anyway, interesting comments from you, even if I disagree. If you have the time, please clarify a few of your comments. Thanks.

If God can excuse me from charity for a brief moment, I don’t think Johnny Depp is much of a threat to Lucifer, so in all likelihood, he wouldn’t bother with him.

I’ve been on Harry Potter threads a few times and was basically told to “lighten up man it’s just fantasy”. I was told by one member that I was part of the “anti-fantasy crowd”, which still makes me chuckle to this day. If people can’t see the potential problem of having a hero that hundreds of thousands if not millions of kids adulate, that hero being a wizard, then all the power to them. Seeing how passionate and sometimes hostile if not downright mean some were trying to defend the innocuity of their little hero was puzzling to me.

Couldn’t agree more with the last sentence (had to cut your post because it had more characters than allowed with my reply).

I remember when I was in the sixth and seventh grade that there were Christian groups (none Catholic that I can remember) that would pass out literature condemning Dark Shadows.

Dark Shadows from the 60’s was one of my favorite shows…I’d rush home every day after school to watch it…I even planned my high school schedule to be home a 4:00 to not miss an episode. My mom, brother and a couple friends would sit in rapt attention while the drama of Barnabas unfolded.

In the 90’s I very very much enjoyed the TV series with Ben Cross as Barnabas…it was much “darker” than the soap…I don’t think I’d enjoy this “Dark Shadows”…I like the movie…“House of Dark Shadows” from the '80’s however.

If this was the original version then at a later date I can see the same groups rushing to warn everyone about the horrors and evils of Dungeons and Dragons. If it was the revived version then their warnings about both would have been roughly contemparous.

Me too, but I’ll probably wait until it comes out on DVD.

I’m referring to the original 60’s/70’s version.

Back in the 1970s, one of those Christians who felt the need to warn everyone about Dark Shadows was Jack T. Chick. For those who don’t know who he is, there are plenty of threads here on CAF about his bizarre anti-Catholicism, so just do a search.

Jack T, Chick wrote one of his comic book tracts called “Bewitched,” and in this tract, he showed the devil watching his favorite show, “Dark Shadow.” The devil said that he has been able to use this show to lead many souls to hell.

I was 13 years old when I first read that tract, and I didn’t agree with Mr. Chick.

So I wrote him a 13-page letter explaining why I believed that Dark Shadows was not harmful.

The basic argument that I presented was that in Dark Shadows, the lines were clearly drawn between Good and Evil, and the show did NOT try to make Evil look attractive or appealing. Quite the contrary–whenever any of the characters gave in to Evil, their lives and the lives of those that they loved were destroyed, which is straight out of the Bible and the Catechism.

To my surprise and delight, Mr. Chick wrote back to me, and said that my arguments had persuaded him to changed the tract. He had orginally wanted to use the show “Bewitched” in the tract, because this show did exactly what I was warning about–made evil and witchcraft look attractive (very attractive–Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha was gorgeous!).

So if you get a very old copy of “Bewitched,” you will see the show “Dark Shadow” being viewed by the devil. But if you get a newer copy, you will see the show, “Bewitched” being watched by the devil.

And you will know that your pal, Cat, is responsible for that!

Ah yes, Mister Jack Chick. The producer of the religious equivalent of Tijuana Bibles in comic book terms. Eisner, Moore, Gerber, Kirby, Spiegleman, Moebius all those and more have used the comicbook format in interesting ways to tell stories in a way neither a movie or a book could. Then there’s Jack, 40 years and more of repeating stale bigotry. He unquestionably believes the line he peddles and at times he even uses decent enough artists but his tracts are notorious worldwide.

That’s an interesting story though Cat. I can just imagine Jack updating this tract to feature some other show if lives much longer. Several of his tracts have had updates and changes over time I’ve noted.

A. You have every right not to like the new version of Dark Shadows.

      	              1. You don’t like Tim Burton’s pastiche. Great – Fantastic.
              2. You don’t like the occult in *Dark Shadows*. Great – Fantastic.
              3. You don’t like [insert outrage] in relation to *Dark Shadows*. Great –                                  Fantastic.

**B. I would say to you: stop living to be offended. **

  1. There are plenty of things in the Church (and the world in general) to be this upset about. *Dark Shadows *is not one of them.


Have you watched the movie? My mortal self wouldn’t last ten seconds taking on either Barnabas or Angie. I can hardly call the displays of power I’ve seen as ‘toying’.

It might be a different story if I was my own horror freak (or maybe even a fantasy one) but that’s for people who know how to appreciate fiction.

From your previous posts on popular media, moralizing does not make a good critic.

Oh yeah, just because people like skulls, zombies, and dead things it means we’re eeeeebil. :rolleyes:

Oh I see where you’re going here. Frankly though, you have a bizarre view of reality and a poor understanding of demonology if you think a bunch of names and a bit of acting is enough to invoke Satan.

I’ve studied a good deal of semiotics, mythology, folklore, and with the addition of reading up a book on exorcism as well. In none of them will you find support for these… fears.

Why not? Satan could use more mockery. After all you claim he’s done, he certainly deserves to be derided. Heck, if you can say simplistic, uncharitable things like “Away with you!” or “Begone devil!” then I don’t see how adding a bit of wit is any different.

I don’t suggest we go looking for devils under every rock, but I do suggest the American culture show a little more respect when handling the most potent evil force in the universe.

If I had a choice between A) being part of the stupid, religiously-driven mob that’s chasing monsters with torches and pitchforks or B) being one of the monsters themselves (be it vampire, werewolf, witch/warlock, ghost), I’d rather choose the monsters. I’ve been treated more like them anyways.

Thanks for once against reinforcing my decision.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to defend myself from the latest mob with my newest stitched zombie creations. Good thing there was such a beautiful lightning storm last night. :stuck_out_tongue:

Says the guy defending those who accuse fantasy lovers of being false Catholics and occult-worshipers.

If you can’t see how hostile statements like that are then you are in no place to even use that word.


Thanks for being a source of parody. I can never get tired of making types like yours as the religious comic relief. :thumbsup:

That’s impressive! I’d rather that Mr. Chick just drop his whole of fantasy = occult formula though. It might save me the trouble of picking which one of the countless ways I can make fun of the guy. :stuck_out_tongue:

I actually respect Jack’s sincerity, what I have problems with is that he seems to be a very poor critical thinker and he seems to have been easily taken in by conmen like the late Alberto Rivera.

It’s a movie dude. Vampires and Werewolves do not exist.

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