By Soo Bawlz
I was originally going to write a review of the
Tim Burton film DARK SHADOWS for Horror Hosts and Creature Features. I saw the film with some associates on opening day with only a brief glimpse of one of the trailers in my brain pan. Honestly, There are three things that I routinely find boring, extremely pretentious, and trite: Dark Shadows, Tim Burton Movies, and Vampires…or maybe it’s the fans of these three things that I find mostly boring, pretentious and trite. That being said, we walked in with little to no expectations. We walked out thoroughly entertained. A new movie in the theater, featuring classic horror monsters, gorgeous visuals, some laugh out loud humor, and fine actors. That is what going to the movies is all about for me.
It made me like Tim Burton again. It had the qualities I loved in Beetlejuice, Ed Wood, and Batman. Remember the 1989 BATMAN?–When everyone was so angry that Michael Keaton was no Adam West and that Tim Burton was ruining their childhood. Sound familiar? Did Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder deal with a lot of Monster fans saying “I’m not going to see “Young Frankenstein” because it’s a comedy and has no respect for the original films.”
Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows made me curious to revisit what I secretly thought was the most boring TV show in history just as Watchmen made me revisit and appreciate what I thought was an over-rated comic book.
I now love 3 whole vampire movies and Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows can take it’s place next to Lost Boys and Near Dark.
The film itself, like I said, is beautiful. And In spite of Tim Burton’s usual stable of actors including Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, the entire ensemble cast seemed to fit their characters. They were Immaculately costumed, with fantastic makeup and hair, which to me is extremely important for a period piece or any film.
The Collinwood Mansion itself was a star in this movie, fabulous architecture and decorations harkening back to the original show and other gothic 60’s and 70’s films such as those of Hammer Horror. Now, the plot to me seemed a bit too fast paced–which did seem to betray the excruciatingly long and drawn out vibe of the original soap opera, and the climax of the film was also just a bit too over the top. All modern movies that seem to be for made for 3-D IMAX seem to have this problem. However, it wasn’t enough to ruin the film for this fan!
I really liked it but I was overcome with guilt…what will I tell my purist horror friends who refused to even see it? It’s depressing to think that we live in an age where it is so fashionable to publicly trash something with the most minimal of information. It’s easy to be is a critic and a cynic, and it’s hard to please everybody. However, we had a 25 year old, a 41 year old and a couple of 55 year olds in our party who all walked out very happy and as you may know, that almost never happens. I think this is a good thing for genre films in general.
Collectively, we “fans” complain to excess that there aren’t enough “monster movies“, that kids “these days” don’t like “monster movies“, and that everything Hollywood puts out is “garbage“. However it seems to me that every-time someone tries to bring monsters back to the big screen they’re rewarded with a bunch of internet trolling.
I enjoyed Cabin in the Woods earlier this year, I saw it in the drive-in. Our car was parked in an almost empty lot. I’m told the opening numbers were disappointing. I remember, I had that same feeling of not wanting to tell people I enjoyed it.
Late last year a monster movie called Creature came out, even better yet a practical “guy-in-a-suit” monster movie which a lot of us have been praying for since the domination of CGI! Creature reportedly had one of the worst openings in cinema history. Six days after the film was released we tried to go see it at the Drive-in, it was already gone.
The year before that, Wolfman. It had some excellent acting, some great “guy-in-a-suit” werewolves. Again, afraid. Not of werewolves–of retaliation from horror purists putting down an attempt by Universal to revive a classic monster. In 2005, Slither came out, that movie had an original plot, it was not a remake, a reboot, a prequel or a sequel, and very obviously was a love letter to horror films of the 1950’s to the 1980’s. I thought it was one of the best movies of that year and most of my peers HATED IT. I will enjoy these films in silence no longer!
Not all of genre films that are famously unpopular among Monster Kids are financially unsuccessful. Let’s talk about Twilight. Hollywood keeps making Vampire movies for different demographics…until somebody bites. Right now, “16 year old girls and their moms” are the ones biting. They love horror and sci-fi now. That’s why Doctor Who looks like a hipster, Vampires have perfect teeth and sparkle and wizards are smooth and pasty young boys.
If you’ve got nothing but complaints about the current state of horror in Hollywood, they are going to continue to not make films for you. They’ve moved on to a less hard to please group. In the 1950’s and 1960’s horror and sci-fi was for kids, in the early 1970’s it was for adults, in the 1980’s and the 1990’s it was for young adults and now a lot of it is for teenage girls…and their moms.
It seems, ultimately, a lot of Monster Movie fans aren’t supporting their genre these days. They are either putting it down or taking it way too seriously. It’s very hip to be irreverent about things that really matter and save their reverence for things like sci-fi and horror. We’re very hard on genre films which are supposed to be fun and not serious and we’re not as hard on movies that are serious and not very good. In the case of something like Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter — critics more offended that Abraham Lincoln is their Vampire movie and not because there are Vampires in an Abe Lincoln movie.
Genre movies are meant to be a bit silly and we’re treating them like they’re religious texts. We can’t suspend our disbelief any more so we’ve made the bubblegum of our youth into gods to have a fanatical faith in. The reason we had so many great genre movies in the 50’s and 60’s was because they appealed to a wide audience looking for escape, not because they were high-art for serious appreciation by pseudo intellectuals.
Whew. Well, this has become a negative article about being too negative. Let’s end it on a positive note, shall we? Not all fans of Vampires, Tim Burton, and Dark Shadows are pretentious goth girls and film majors who somehow take fun genres way too seriously. I’d like to see more horror, sci-fi, and monster movie fans develop a sense of balanced criticism. Tell me what you liked about a film as well as what you didn’t like about it. I’m reminded of something a pal of mine says whenever he sees a disappointing entry in a genre he loves: “Not quite what I wanted…But keep making ‘em!”