The first thing that really strikes you about Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows centres around his long-time collaborator; why exactly has it taken so long for someone to cast Johnny Depp as a vampire? Proving his acting worth in almost every role imaginable, Depp once again steals the show as vamp Barnabas Collins in this densely populated movie.
Burton’s usual gang return in this tongue-in-cheek tale of mythical beasties reeking havoc in a small 1970’s American fishing port. With a brief introduction explaining Barnabas’s vampiric affliction, the film transports the vampire to the hippy world of the 70’s where he’s confronted with lava lamps, McDonalds and a witch he once scorned. Played admirably by Eva Green, Angelique continues her centuries-old attempts to seduce Barnabas into loving her, much to the detriment of the Collins estate. Bringing up the rear are the more than capable Michelle Pfieffer, Helena Bonham Carter and Chloë Moretz as Pfieffer’s misunderstood teenage daughter.
Based loosely on the 60’s series of the same name (you can read our review here) Dark Shadows tries to tie too many plots into its two hour slot. Amidst Angelique’s seduction we’re confronted with a young boy’s attempts to deal with his mother’s death, a disinterested father, an enigmatic teen, a mysterious new employee, a drunken psychiatrist as well as the family’s attempts to reinstate the family business in the town. Not enough screen-time is devoted to Barnabas’s doomed love with Josette and his being reunited with her is ill-explained. Due to this plot confusion the film, rather ironically, sometimes feels like it would have worked better as a TV series.
Despite its problems Dark Shadows is a lot of fun, thanks largely to Depp’s fish-out-water Barnabas. His reaction to the 70’s landscape provides the film with most of its laughs, with notable scenes including his reaction to TVs and disco balls. The film features some memorable scenes, including Barnabas’s destructive romp with Angelique and the big fiery finalé. Complementing the outfit is the film’s soundtrack and, whilst Danny Elfman provides his usual flair, it is the 70’s hits that really steal the limelight – especially as Alice Cooper even makes a cameo.
Dark Shadows is an enjoyable but ultimately unfulfilling film. Whilst it’s a worthwhile watch, it holds more promise than it can provide in its two hour run time.
Best bit: Seeing a blood transfusion bag being sucked dry through a body.