Dark Shadows Blu-ray Review
Presented in 1.85:1 and as an AVC MPEG, this film looks very good throughout. It is of course quite dark for the most part and this allows you to explore the extensive shadow detail. Dark greens and reds are the main colours, with a pale skin tone chosen. There is a fair degree of film grain evident, but transfer noise is extremely low. When we do get a more colourful shot, it is vibrant and well saturated. The 70’s orange shag pile and pastel coloured cars contrasting – or should that be clashing nicely. The CGI is superb. Burton used plenty of full size and scale sets, so the amount of green screen could be minimised. The physical transformation of Burton also reduced the amount of work needed to bring him to life. Other players (Eva Green for one) have had by nature of the effects required been more heavily retouched in digital make up, but the result is still excellent. If your TV is set up too brightly, you will lose the benefit of the low lighting and the picture will be swamped in murky blacks instead of subtle detail. You really need a darkened room to get the best from any horror fantasy movie and this one is no exception. The same goes for incorrect colour balance. Any attempts to warm up the almost grey faces of some of the characters will totally wreck the look of the film. Make sure you switch off any dynamic picture controls or the TV will attempt to increase the brightness during the brighter scenes, no doubt with disastrous results.
Any sound track that can effortlessly blend Alice Cooper, The Carpenters and a full on orchestral score is going to get good marks! Back this up with crisp dialogue and a highly involving surround mix and you have a very good sound track indeed. Maybe the bass is a touch wallowy at times and the occasional actor fights to make themselves heard, but on the whole it is pretty good. I am not keen on music being routed through all surround speakers all the time and this for me is the only down side to the film. Unless I am playing first piccolo in the Royal Philharmonic, I rarely sit in the middle of the orchestra when listening to them play, so it can therefore sound unnatural when the audio mixers position instruments behind me. There is a similar issue with the pop music tracks, with an over extended stereo image wrapping the band all the way around me. Things improve with the effects, with these being spread all around the image. There are not really any “hairs on the back of your neck” moments as you get with some actions films, but it is all there and works very well.
At first I was quite disappointed with the extras, but then I worked out how they were laid out within the disc menu and my opinion changed! All nine featurettes are encoded so that you can either watch them in line with the film – Maximum Movie Mode, or as individual shorts. They are all extremely well put together and of excellent technical quality.
- Becoming Barnabas – A look at how Johnny Depp becomes a vampire, both in makeup and person. As with all the shorts, this one runs to around 5 minutes and is both interesting and well made. Unlike too many of these things, this one avoids being too sycophantic and is just the right length
- Welcome to Collinsport looks at the construction of the town and mansion. You get a sense of just how much they built and how little green screen was required.
- Melee of Monstrous Proportions looks at the thrilling battle sequence and gives an insight into the stunts the cast performed.
- Angelique: A Witch Scorned is a pretty standard character assessment from Eva Green and Johnny Depp. Good fun all the same.
- Reliving a Decade is a fun retrospective of the 70’s as portrayed in the film. Stars discuss their groovy costumes while the set dressers – all children of the 70’s relive their childhood through their work.
- Dark Shadowy Secrets concentrates on the special effects. From blowing up the fish shed in spectacular red flames to the 1/3rdscale mansion built just to set fire to! We learn a few secrets and tricks of the trade along the way.
- The Collinses: Every Family has its Demons. This is the more sycophantic short but at least the cast have enough mutual respect to concentrate on the characters, not the actors themselves as they discuss their various roles and interactions.
- Alice Cooper Rocks Collinsport! Just in case you missed his cameo, you can catch up here with an interview and peek behind the scenes at the filming. I cannot think of a better rock star to feature in this film. One of the original gothic superstars!
- Dark Shadows: The legend Bites Back: This is just to see how many original movie monsters and storylines Tim Burton recycled into the movie you can spot. There are quite a few…
As well as all these segments, you also get a nice selection of fully finished deleted scenes, most of which feel that they could have been part of the finished movie without stringing it out too much.
This is a well produced, well presented set of extras, probably one of the best I have seen on a single disk SKU.
Fans of Tim Burton will devour this, along with the current glut of Emos and vampire fans. The movie has an original, if slightly confused plot, but this is offset by the above average production values and generally superb acting. The huge, beautifully made and immaculately dressed sets are so much better than that seen in most movies of this genre, not least due to the fairly substantial budget. For the rest of us, it is just a visually impressive movie with a small amount of gore and bad language but not enough to scare the average 15 year old.
Technically this film is very good. Both sound and picture are up to the current standards and the disc plays flawlessly. The exquisite, detailed sets with plenty of low level and shadow detail will test the contrast and brightness levels of your TV. It really is worthwhile going through the AVForums Picture Perfect setup to extract the best from this disc. Too much colour or brightness will kill the mood, while the darker scenes will have your TV’s auto brightness control cranking up the wick until all the fine work of the film crew is totally destroyed.
Well worth adding to your collection whether you are into Tim Burton’s particular brand of black humour or not.
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.