Dark Shadows has all the hallmarks of a Tim Burton movie – Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, gothic visuals and a fairytale back-story. At first glance it’s a comedic mash up of gothic and 1970s cultures – an eighteenth century vampire caught in a hippy’s world. Based on the 1970s television series by Dan Curtis, its no surprise that this idea appealed to director, Tim Burton.
Dark Shadows begins with a concise and gripping fairytale prologue. It’s the eighteenth century and Barnabus Collins is cursed by a witch, Angelique (Eva Green). Angelique begins her sorcery by forcing the love of his life to commit suicide and then turns him into a vampire. Angelique then plays with Barnabus’ reputation, turning the townsfolk against him and burying him in a coffin, deep underground. Two hundred years later and its 1972. Barnabus is released and returns home to his beloved house, Collinwood, where he finds the new members of the Collins family. He must now rescue the family business from the clutches of the very witch who cursed him.
Dark Shadows is at its best early on, when Barbabus is baffled and concealing his identity from all but the head of the family (Michelle Pfieffer). There are plenty of gags about his outdated language and vampire status that Depp delivers in quick and witty fashion.
Unfortunately, as the plot moves on, Dark Shadows falls into a predictable rhythm. Repetitious conflict between Barnabus and Angelique becomes tedious and dreary as Dark Shadows drifts towards its somewhat predictable finale.
There are plenty of moments when Dark Shadows could have been much more edgy. The fact that Barnabus is a killer and a womaniser is alluded to, but never really developed. And so Dark Shadows lacks the horror and fear factor that work so well in much of Burton’s work. Instead, Dark Shadows occupies a strange space between comedy and horror, being neither here nor there.
On the plus side, Dark Shadows does have good sprinkling of entertaining characters to keep its audience interested. Helena Bonham Carter is splendid as the Collins’ lazy, live in psychiatrist. Bella Heathcote also puts in a strong performance as Victoria, the wispy governess with a connection to the spiritual world.
In Dark Shadows, Depp is faultless, yet it feels time to see something new and surprising from Burton
Dark Shadows is the eighth collaboration between Tim Burton and Johnny Depp and, here, it starts to feel a little predictable. As Barnabus, Depp delivers just what we have come to expect from him in this type of role – he is convincing, sharp, quick witted, funny and a little sinister. In Dark Shadows, Depp is faultless, yet it feels time to see something new and surprising from Burton.
Dark Shadows’ unusual blend of gothic and 1970s styling is intriguing, but lacks an equally unexpected plot. There are more than enough laughs to be had though, and a few interesting characters to share the ride with. Whilst the Tim Burton treatment does make Dark Shadows stand out from the crowd, it’s not one of Burton’s best.
VERDCT: ✪ ✪ ✪
For more information, see the official Dark Shadows website