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Section Header
Dark Shadows
Composed and Produced by:
Danny Elfman

Conducted by:
Rick Wentworth

Orchestrated by:
Steve Bartek
Edgardo Simone
David Sloanaker

WaterTower Music

Release Date:
May 8th, 2012

Also See:
Sleepy Hollow
The Wolfman
Men in Black
Mars Attacks!
Alice in Wonderland

Audio Clips:
1. Dark Shadows - Prologue (Uncut) (0:30):
WMA (191K)  MP3 (239K)
Real Audio (168K)

16. House of Blood (0:32):
WMA (213K)  MP3 (269K)
Real Audio (189K)

18. Widow's Hill - Finale (0:30):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

19. The End? (Uncut) (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

Regular U.S. release.


Dark Shadows
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Buy it... if Danny Elfman can do no wrong for you when he explores gothic romanticism with a violent edge, a personality perfectly fitting for this morbidly brooding and forcefully elegant topic.

Avoid it... if twenty minutes of easily accessible thematic highlights are not enough to compensate for an otherwise dissonant and inconsistent midsection that challenges the ears more often than it clarifies the narrative.

Dark Shadows: (Danny Elfman) Given director Tim Burton's obsession with romanticizing the undead, it should be no surprise that he dove off a cliff to resurrect the late-1960's/early-1970's television series concept of "Dark Shadows." The popular soap opera ran from 1966 to 1971 and gained a loyal following because of its awkward but affable infusion of fantasy elements into the otherwise stale genre. When Warner Brothers opened the coffin in the early 2010's, Burton brought his usual cast and crew to the party, producing a 2012 rendition that is saturated with his gothic sensibilities and odd sense of humor. The story stays faithful the original concept, an 18th Century fishing business and its family manor in Maine cursed over unrealized love. In the early 1970's, the two primary characters still alive from that product of witchcraft come into conflict once again, bringing family members, reincarnated love interests, and innocent bystanders into the battle of wits and death. While the original series managed to balance its morbid and humorous elements with finesse, Burton seems to have had difficulty achieving the same balance, his horror inclinations arguably pushing his film too dark for his humor to coexist in the same context. His Dark Shadows was met with minimal acclaim and surprisingly poor initial box office returns, though the project, like many Burton efforts, has all the characteristics necessary to become a future cult favorite. His previous endeavor, Alice in Wonderland was an immediate sensation, in part because of Danny Elfman's music for the 2010 production. The composer continues his collaboration with Burton with a rather straight-forward approach to Dark Shadows, sharing a significant amount of screen time with numerous 1970's songs chosen for the picture. The music by Robert Cobert for the original series popularly balanced romanticism with eerie electronic tones, and Elfman follows a similar path while also beefing up the orchestral horror element to match Burton's own emphasis on violence. Elfman clearly sought to temper his own style of fantasy writing with an early 1970's vibe, nodding to the soap opera's origins with a glint of retro coolness and even sleaze. In general, a veteran Elfman collector will hear nothing new in Dark Shadows, for the retro designs and quirkiness are reminiscent of Men in Black and Mars Attacks! while the bursts of horror and sound design for the conversational scenes alternate between Sleepy Hollow and The Wolfman territory.

The demeanor of Dark Shadows is comprised of Elfman's usual ensemble components, the brooding orchestra joined in the mix by adult and children's voices (usually in a group but occasionally highlighting one boy in typical Elfman manner), an array of electronic effects, and a solo flute and vibraphone as the token representations of the 1970's influence. The bass strings and low woodwinds are emphasized heavily in the orchestral portion of the mix, the former sometimes resounding in their meandering tones of menacing intent. Expect the ensemble to root around in necessarily depressing minor figures for most of the score, Elfman's employment of cooing choral accompaniment transitioning a cue like "Vicky's Nightmare" from this routine expression of gloom into the more attractive beauty associated with his early years with Burton. The electronics are nebulous and inconsistent, sometimes cool but at other times obnoxious. When Elfman uses these tones as sound design, obvious tools of dissonant disturbance in "Hypno Music" and "House of Blood," the result is difficult to tolerate. On the other hand, the octave-shifting slurring of pitch heard as an accent to some of the main theme's full performances ("Shadows - Reprise" and "The End? (Uncut)") is quite entertaining and a better connection to Cobert's original ideas. When the pitch reaches its two lowest octaves, it will shake the floors and rattle the windows of anyone with a larger sound system. Elfman also employs a thumping base effect extremely low in the soundscape to accompany his "movement motif" in "Dumping the Body" and "The End? (Uncut)." The 1970's duo of alto flute and vibraphone are sufficient at their task, but they seem forced into an environment where they aren't completely comfortable. That said, the downward retro motif that occupies the flute, especially with the echoing mix that is afforded to it, does yield a somewhat timeless atmosphere to accompany the resurrection of an era past in the story. As expected from Elfman in pure horror mode, there is a fair amount of extremely challenging material in Dark Shadows, the composer's shrieking and striking walls of sound, often with violins producing unpleasant sounds on top, basically effective but nearly insufferable out of context. There are also more than a few cues that don't really accomplish anything other than stewing in the background, such as the vague 1970's atmosphere in "Lava Lamp" and the tentatively darker version of that same tone in "Deadly Handshake." Don't be surprised if you discover yourself skipping past these passages in the middle of the score and missing the interludes of soft beauty, such as the brief "Is It Her?"

Thematically, Elfman's tackling of Dark Shadows seems more simplistic than one might expect. The score is dominated by a primary theme for Barnabas Collins and his family and manor's history. The structural manipulation of this idea, outside of some flirtation with a major key alternative of its progressions in "Dark Shadows - Prologue (Uncut)" and, appropriately, "Widow's Hill - Finale," is minimal, but Elfman very intriguingly references only fragments of the idea in its many renditions, suggesting the incompleteness of the main character. The first five notes of the theme are its core, though Elfman sometimes drops the first one to stew on the four that revolve around the major fifth. His secondary phrase forces deviation on this progression, and you hear references to the theme as short as two notes throughout the score. To hear the fullest version of the theme, including its somewhat hysterical interval section (the three-note rising figures here are a bit over the top), consult with "We Will End You!" at the end of the score-only album. The theme is quite malleable, expressed with sorrow and inflection in softer passages, a hint of elegance in its occasional waltz-like movements, while outright stomped with the composer's nearly Planet of the Apes percussion in other places. Elfman's secondary identities in Dark Shadows aren't as memorable but they are consistently employed. The main theme is sometimes accompanied by the "movement motif," an accelerated rhythm of four rising cello notes that literally propels each of its cues. While this motif introduces the theme in earnest in the prologue and does its duty in "Dumping the Body" and "Widow's Hill - Finale," it really shines in the two concert-like performances of main theme in "The End? (Uncut)" and "We Will End You!" Heard in the first minute of the long prologue cue are the two identities for Collins' nemesis, Angelique Bouchard, first the retro slurring of the flute (which is something of a nod to soap opera environments in general) and then the character's actual descending theme. The former is utilized frequently in its readily recognizable form, though the Angelique theme is often extremely elusive in its enunciations. Elfman applies its descending phrases frequently, but not in ways that really stand out. His fragmentary approach causes it to express fury late in "Dark Shadows - Prologue (Uncut)" without associating with the character because of the progressions the theme shares in common (understandably) with the main theme. You do receive a somewhat self-contained, major reference in "Burn Baby Burn/In-Tombed," though don't expect this idea to really stick with you long.

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Overall, Dark Shadows is one of those fascinating scores that has all the characteristics that Elfman fans crave the most, but the composer doesn't really collect all of his ideas and tones into one cohesive narrative. The numerous songs utilized as source and plain soundtrack augmentation in context, along with Alice Cooper's cameo and performance as himself in the famous party scene (which features four of the original series' cast members, no less), may have put Elfman at something of a disadvantage. Unlike his recent triumphs, Alice in Wonderland and Real Steel, there are issues with narrative flow evident in the meandering midsection of Dark Shadows . As usual, though, the composer does pull things together for his finale sequence, the duo of "Final Confrontation" and "Widow's Hill - Finale" providing an excess of satisfying tonal expressions of melancholy and thematic grandeur. The latter is an especially important cue that offers the main theme in full with agonizing emotional outreach (all the while maintaining the somewhat creepy atmosphere of the score's prior personality). The "Dark Shadows - Prologue (Uncut)" cue also features an abundance of this attractive narrative flow and harmonic accessibility, including the prerequisite organ usage. For the casual Elfman enthusiast, there will be enough of this kind of material to achieve considerable enjoyment from the Dark Shadows album. If you take these aforementioned highlights and combine them with the album's three relatively short but noteworthy, straight-forward presentations of the main theme, you can assemble twenty minutes of melodic and entertaining music largely devoid of Elfman's rougher material (and the 1970's vibe, which may not appeal to all listeners). The winner of the whole lot is "The End? (Uncut)," which features the best of the movement motif with the octave-slurring electronic pitch and thumping effects before launching into arguably the most fluid performance of the main theme. The interlude sequence in that cue pushes the movement motif into the treble for the children's choir to perform, an oddly inverted form of Elfman's similar idea from Scrooged and Nightbreed. If you prefer dominant percussive force instead of the rambling electronic accompaniment, the final cue, "The End? (Uncut)," is a solid alternative. In all of its forms, the main theme is rowdy fun despite its structural simplicity. The album presentation of the score, however, will require some patience from even a dedicated Elfman collector. The majority of the main attractions on the product are housed in the final five tracks, and some of those that come before will either bore or irritate. For those highlights, Dark Shadows is a solid three-star score, but it falls well short of its potential to be a truly well-coordinated narrative powerhouse. *** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For Danny Elfman reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.2 (in 65 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.24 (in 119,006 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 3.6 Stars
Smart Average: 3.37 Stars*
***** 97 
**** 58 
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    * Smart Average only includes
         40% of 5-star and 1-star votes
              to counterbalance fringe voting.
   Alternative Review
  Paul Cote -- 5/27/12 (10:05 a.m.)
   Music Muse Reviews "Dark Shadows"...
  KK -- 5/19/12 (10:56 a.m.)
Read All | Add New Post | Search | Help  

 Track Listings: Total Time: 52:44

• 1. Dark Shadows - Prologue (Uncut) (7:52)
• 2. Resurrection (2:54)
• 3. Vicky Enters Collinswood (1:21)
• 4. Deadly Handshake (2:14)
• 5. Shadows - Reprise (1:08)
• 6. Is It Her? (0:43)
• 7. Barnabus Comes Home (4:18)
• 8. Vicky'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. Widow's Hill - Finale (3:47)
• 19. The End? (Uncut) (2:42)
• 20. More the End? (1:55)
• 21. We Will End You! (1:09)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes no extra information about the score or film.

  All artwork and sound clips from Dark Shadows are Copyright © 2012, WaterTower Music. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 5/18/12 (and not updated significantly since). Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2012-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.