Dark Shadows

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Not suitable under 13, Parental guidance to 15 (Disturbing scenes and themes; sexual references)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Dark Shadows
  • a review of Dark Shadows completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 15 May 2012.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Not suitable due to disturbing scenes and themes, and sexual references
Children aged 13-15 Parental guidance recommended due to disturbing scenes and themes, and sexual references
Children over the age of 15 OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Dark Shadows
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Fantasy themes and violence
Length: 113 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

The year is 1752, and a young Barnabas Collins and his parents set sail from Liverpool England for the Americas. In America the family thrives, becoming fishing magnates with a fishing port named after them. However when, as a young man, Barnabas (Johnny Depp) scorns a servant girl, Angelique (Eva Green) for Josette DuPres, a beautiful woman of high standing, his world falls apart. It turns out that Angelique is a witch, who takes her revenge against Barnabas by killing his parents and his true love Josette and turning Barnabas into a vampire. Angelique then entices the local villagers to riot and Barnabas is buried in a chained coffin for eternity.

Over two hundred years later, Barnabas’ luck changes whenworkmen accidentally dig the coffin up and release him from his prison. Barnabas returns to his family mansion where he finds the estate in ruins. The remaining members of the Collins dynasty, headed by Elizabeth Collins (Michelle Pfeiffer), are so dysfunctional that they need the services of a live-in psychiatrist (Helena Bonham Carter).

Barnabas moves in with his family and vows to return the Collins empire to its former glory. However, his plans are thrown into turmoil when the new governess Victoria (Bella Heathcote) turns out to be the reincarnation of his lost love Josette, while Barnabas’ old nemesis Angelique is still very much alive and still determined to ruin Barnabas and his family.     


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Vampires; the supernatural; revenge

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

Dark Shadows contains scenes depicting horror violence, often played for comedy and including the depiction of medium-level blood and gore. Examples include:

  • A woman falls from a high cliff onto rocks below and lies face-down in the ocean; no blood and gore are depicted nor do we see her body impact on the rocks. Barnabas jumps from a high cliff and falls through the air on to rocks below. Following the fall Barnabas gets up and appears uninjured but has blood running from his eyes as through crying blood.  
  • After workmen unearth a coffin and release Barnabas, we see him in a killing frenzy as men are thrown through the air and slammed into trucks and machinery. Barnabas has blood covering his mouth, fangs, chin, hands and clothes. Barnabas lifts a man up into the air and bites into his neck and blood pours on to the ground below.
  • After Angelique enacts a spell we see a large factory explode into flames.
  • Barnabas is shot in the back and we see several bloody bullet holes in his back although he appears unaffected.  
  • In an extended fight between Angelique and the Collins family, Barnabas and Angelique throw each other around like rag dolls. At one point Barnabas throws Angelique through the ceiling into the room above. Barnabas bites Angelique on the neck and we see two puncture wounds on her neck. At one point Angelique is shot with a shotgun and we see bloodless wounds that appear to have no effect on her.     
  • During a fight between Angelique and a young female werewolf, Angelique uses magical force to hurl the girl across a large room.  

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of eight, including the following:

  • When Barnabas first transforms into a vampire he bleeds from the eyes andhis hands transform with his fingers elongating growing long black claws. When he opens his mouth we see long white fangs. As a vampire Barnabas has powder-like skin and dark sunken eyes. At times he moves with supernatural speed and strength.
  • The film contains several scenes depicting images of a female ghost in a shimmering flowing dress. In one scene the woman appears as though underwater and we see a ghost crab crawl out of her mouth and across her face.      
  • During one extended scene Angeliquetakes on a china doll-like appearance.Her face develops cracks as she receives blows from Barnabas and her limbs bend out of proportion with the sound of bones cracking.
  • One scene depicts Angelique as if crucified on a giant fallen chandelier. She pushes her hand into her chest and pulls out her beating heart. It appears to be made of glass and crumbles to dust. Part of Angelique’s face also crumbles away.   
  • A teenage girl partially transforms into a wolf; the girl’s legs resemble a wolf and she has a hairy wolf-like face with a mouth full of sharp teeth.
  • Giant wooden snakes carved into a banister magically come to life and attack a woman. Large threatening looking wooden statues also come to life and attack the Collins family.     
  • A long forked tongue flicks out of Angelique’s mouth as she kisses Barnabas.      
  • A 10 year old girl is taken in an ambulanceand when we next see her she is in a padded cell and wearing a straightjacket. Later, we see the same girl gagged and strapped to a table and being given shock treatment.
  • A woman lies on a bed receiving a blood transfusion. Barnabas pins the woman against a wall and bites into her neck. The bag filled with blood emptiesas he drains the woman of her blood. Later we see him dumping her body into the ocean.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by some of the above-mentioned scenes.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by some of the above-mentioned scenes.

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Younger children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the above-mentioned scenes.

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

The film contains a scattering of both covert and overt sexual references and innuendoes. Examples include:

  • A young boy tells a group of people that his teenage sister “touches herself” and makes noises like a cat.
  • We hear a man telling a woman to keep her panties on, inferring that she should be patient, and the woman replies “I’ll try”. 
  • Angelique makes reference to having “lots of fun” on a desk and in a lounge chair with Barnabas.
  • Barnabas makes reference to suckling from a woman’s diseased teat.
  • A woman tells Barnabas that they could make little fish together.
  • When Angelique rips open the front of her dress to reveal her breasts, Barnabas comments, “Those haven’t aged a day”.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • Barnabas passionately kisses young women on the lips.
  • Women wear low-cut tops. In one scene Angelique wears an evening gown with an extremely low-cut top, designed to reveal as much cleavage as possible.   
  • While alone with Barnabas, a female doctor asks Barnabas if he understands what doctor patient confidentiality meant, she then kneels down in front of him and disappears off camera with the implication being that she is administering oral sex.
  • Angelique rips open the front of her dress to reveal her partially covered breasts to Barnabas and then lies down on a couch in a seductive manner in an attempt to entice him. They kiss passionately while rolling around on the floor, ceiling and walls, smashing numerous items of furniture and ripping each other’s clothing, although remaining partially clothed.
  • Female pole dancers wearing micro-miniskirts dance in cages at a party.
  • Barnabas is bound and chained and lying in a coffin. Angelique, who is wearing a long evening gown, takes off her underpants and drapes them across Barnabas’ face. 

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Men and women smoke cigarettes throughout the film.
  • Men and women drink wine and spirits with meals (on one occasion breakfast), atparties and in bars.
  • Dr Julia Hoffman is described as always being drunk and hung-over; we continuously see her drinking and behaving in a slightly intoxicated manner. On one occasion we see her taking prescription drugs which she washes down with scotch.
  • Marijuana smoking.

Coarse language

The film contains some coarse language, putdowns and name calling scattered throughout. Examples include:

  •  “You little shit, you got to be shitting me, arsehole, harlot, hooker, whore of Beelzebub, succubus of Satan, shit a brick, damned bastards, Jesus, Christ, bitch.

In a nutshell

Dark Shadows(rated M) was directed by Tim Burton and is a comedy fantasy film targeting older teens and adults. The film is typical of Tim Burton with lots of dark shadows, heavy make-up and gothic design. It is too scary for children under 13, with some scenes that may also disturb slightly older teens. It contains sexual references and sex scenes that parents may not wish their children to be exposed to.

The main messagefrom this movie is that family and true love are the most important things in life.

Parents may also wish to discuss Barnabas’s attitude towards women and relationships. Barnabas professes that he only wants true love with one woman, but appears quite willing to engage in casual sexual encounters.