Review: Dark Shadows / Cert: 12 / Director: Tim Burton / Screenplay: Seth Grahame-Smith / Starring: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfieffer, Eva Green, Helena Bonham Carter / Release Date: October 15th
As I'm sure everyone knows by now, Dark Shadows is adapted from an old daytime soap, but it could hardly fit more snugly into the Burton canon if the director had dreamt it up himself. After spending 200 years trapped in a coffin, reluctant vampire Barnabas Collins (Depp) is unearthed by some unwitting workmen in the year 1972, only to find the once powerful Collins dynasty in decline. Forming an alliance with the current head of the family, Elizabeth (Pfeiffer), he settles back into the now-crumbling Collinwood Manor and goes about restoring the Collins name to its former glory.
Standing in his way is Angelique (Green), the witch who murdered his true love Josette (Heathcote), turned him into one of the undead and imprisoned him underground, all because he spurned her affections. She now rules the roost in Collinsport, the Maine fishing town his family founded – although you would think that 200 years of putting up with the smell of fish would be an even worse punishment than being buried alive.
Now that she's had a couple of centuries to cool down, she's prepared to bury the hatchet and kindle their romance again. That's not very likely to happen, though, thanks to the arrival of Victoria, who happens to be the spitting image of the long-dead Josette.
The mise-en-scene is full of Burton's trademark Gothic gloom, with costumes, décor and the rugged Maine coastline all looking beautiful, and all cleverly counterpointed against various '70s kitschery. Encountering plastic trolls and lava lamps, Depp performs a series of exquisitely calculated double-takes. Chucklesome moments abound as he reads Love Story, meets hippies and challenges the little person inside the TV set to come out.
What's missing, though, is a bit of passion. The reunion-after-centuries with Victoria/Josette is bland and quickly gets shoved into the background. Flouncing and pouting as Angelique, Eva Green comes across like a Head Girl vamping it up in a game of charades – scrumptiously cute and totally lacking in menace.
And then there's Barnabas himself, who becomes less likeable the more you think about him. Supposedly the embodiment of the can-do spirit, you can't help reflecting that anyone who can spend 200 years inside a coffin without even beginning to scratch his way out is actually something of a slacker. There's also the small point that he kills rather a lot of people – many more than the much-despised Angelique.
Despite these caveats, Dark Shadows still manages to be continually diverting, and it's bolstered with some lovely supporting turns, most notably from Moretz as a feral teen Collins. It's only when you compare it to something like Edward Scissorhands that you notice the shadow of what could have been.
Special Features: The Collinses - Every Family Has Its Demons