Almost two decades after 'Night of Dark Shadows' hit theaters, I caught the movie by accident on cable television, and I had some very faint memories of a mildly creepy horror film with a zombie somewhere in it. Or at least, some kind of reanimated corpse slowly walking towards a helpless woman. I also remember the movie having something to do with ghosts and witches, but nothing involving vampires or the undead, which even I thought was rather weird given the title and connection to the cult daytime soap. Turns out, that so-called zombie is actually the ghost of a witch walking out a supernatural fog, and it isn't as creepy as it is visually cool in that gothic style of classic Hammer Films, the one and only thing this dull mess has going for it.
It's pretty clear by now the movie is a major disappointment. And I can keep going on about how it doesn't live up to what I remember seeing when I younger, but that would be a silly thing to do. This supposedly a direct sequel to 'House of Dark Shadows.' It's also a mind-numbingly boring trek all on its own and hardly needs any assistance from my dim recollections. Besides, doing so would admit the film had some minor effect on me way back when. The truth is I didn't think that much of it back then either, and obviously, I think even less of it today. Roaming the Collins manor and discovering its past tragedies while learning about reincarnations is not in the least bit spooky, especially since characters spend more time talking about it, reinforced with lame flashbacks, than showing any ghostly figures.
The story by Sam Hall and Dan Curtis (the series creator returning also as producer and director) does provide a sense of continuity by taking place sometime after the events of the first movie. However, the sequel has even less to do with the show than its predecessor. Nevertheless, this doesn't stop filmmakers from using the same actors and a couple character names to fill in all the dead air of this haunted house fiasco. Most prominently is the witch Angelique, who in this tale goes from being the sorceress responsible for Barnabas's vampirism to a former member of the Collins family line hung from a tree for her witchcraft. Played once again by Lara Parker, she appears as an apparition with few speaking lines, but it's never made very clear if we're meant to feel sorry for her or fear her.
I suppose we're meant to see her as some kind of scary entity that still roams the mansion, apparently waiting for the reincarnation of her lost love, Charles. This comes by way of David Selby as Quentin Collins, which fans will immediately recognize. In the TV series, Selby played two versions of the Quentin character — one as a witch, and the other most famously as a werewolf. So, if we were to keep track, this would mark a third, vastly different reincarnation of the character. Now, the spirit of Angelique wants this Quentin/Charles back in her life and does all she can to possess him as the new inheritor of the Collins estate. This includes several attempted murders on his wife Tracy, played by the lovely Kate Jackson, who also played Daphne in the show but is probably best remembered for her role as Sabrina Duncan on 'Charlie's Angels.'
Other returning cast members are Grayson Hall known for role as Dr. Julia Hoffman, which Helena Bonham Carter impersonated with aplomb on Tim Burton's recent remake, but is here playing the mansion housekeeper Carlotta Drake. John Karlen, aka Willie Loomis, and Nancy Barrett, aka Carolyn Stoddard, are now a married couple wanting to save their friends Quentin and Tracy from the witch ghost that now haunts the manor. Jim Storm and Diana Millay reprise their roles from the series, and Thayer David is now the 19th Century reverend who sentenced Angelique to death. It's a large cast that does nothing to save this production from a humdrum plot, except perhaps serve as a fun drinking game of name that actor. In the end, the horror movie is a deservedly forgotten mess of boredom, even by fans of the original 'Dark Shadows' series.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Warner Home Video brings 'Night of Dark Shadows' to Blu-ray on a Region Free, BD25 disc inside a blue eco-vortex keepcase. At startup, the disc goes straight to a generic, static main menu with music playing.
The film sequel to the 'Dark Shadows' saga arrives on Blu-ray with slightly better results, but not by much. The print used for this 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode shows its age in several spots with less than satisfying resolution and flesh tones that waver between natural to sickly flushed. The 1.78:1 image also comes with noticeable evidence of noise reduction as close-up of the actors lack the expected fine textures and appear fairly waxy. Other areas of the picture, however, are very nicely detailed with clean, distinct lines on the clothing, foliage and the gothic architecture of the Collins mansion.
On the more positive side, the high-def presentation displays good contrast and brightness balance with deep, strong blacks and crisp whites throughout. Definition and clarity in the darker portions never come into question, as the smallest object in the background is plainly visible in every scene. The color palette is bright and full-bodied with rich, accurate primaries. But in the end, the overall quality does leave much to be desired.
In the audio department, the movie doesn't fare all that better either. The DTS-HD Master Audio mono soundtrack is very much like its predecessor in that they both sound generally flat and listless. Dynamic range is even and uniform in the mids with hardly any movement at all into the higher ranges. The music does a fine job of providing some sense of presence to the video, broadening the soundfield just a tad, but it's still noticeably lacking in warmth and variation. This also includes the general absence of bass, which only makes the track sound that much emptier and hollow. Granted, these minor quibbles are very likely the result of the original design, not a fault of the codec, but it simply doesn't translate well to high-resolution audio.
About the only positive to be found on this lossless mix is strong, clean dialogue reproduction, but aside from that, it's as dull as the movie.
The only available supplement is the movie's original theatrical trailer, presented in standard definition.
A direct follow-up to the first 'Dark Shadows' movie, 'Night of Dark Shadows' is a complete snore-fest, with absolutely no relation to the show except by name only. This thinnest of all connections also includes the names of characters from the series and the same cast in different roles, but aside from that, there's little to enjoy from this sequel except fall asleep to it. The Blu-ray arrives with a good audio and video presentation, but it won't likely impress anyone. This is a mostly bare-bones release with only a trailer as the sole supplement, which means only the most devoted of fans will want anything to do with this package.