DIRECTOR: Tim Burton.
CAST: Johnny Depp, Eva Green, Michelle Pfeiffer, Bella Heathcote, Chloe Grace Moretz, Gulliver McGrath, Helena Bonham Carter, Jackie Earle Haley, Jonny Lee Miller.
SYNOPSIS: After breaking the heart of witch Angelique Bouchard (Green), rich and powerful Barnabus Collins (Depp) is doomed to spend his life as a vampire – and then buried alive. When he is accidentally freed two hundred years later in 1972, Barnabus faces a very different world and a very different family.
Based on the American television series that ran from 1966-71, Dark Shadows is yet another excuse for Tim Burton to dabble in the supernatural and unconventional. But even with an immaculate performance from Johnny Depp, this new film from the duo (with Bonham Carter in tow, obviously) will have you begging for a time when they were joining forces for original projects like Edward Scissorhands.
Opening and closing with Barnabus’ narration, Burton never forms a happy coherence between the two time zones he is so clearly invested in, producing a very episodic film that sometimes achieves an interesting B-movie vibe and minute flashes of brilliance. While there are some inspired cultural references, you have to work very hard to search for what is hidden in the detail.
While Dark Shadows plays host to plenty of familiar Burton collaborators, there is also new blood to be found, with Jackie Earle Haley, Jonny Lee Miller and Eva Green all jumping in for the first time. However there’s only so much Green’s impeccable cleavage and sultry glare can achieve, never feeling entirely convincing behind Angelique’s perfect smile. But when her motives for destroying Barnabus’ life are so trivial, it’s hardly surprising she lacks conviction.
The rest of the cast do not fare quite so well, with Helena Bonham Carter’s Dr. Hoffman entirely unnecessary and surprisingly making for some rather uncomfortable viewing that could easily have been given to the always brilliant Jackie Earle Haley. Chloe Moretz, who has had an incredible run of late, borders on the insufferable, but boy does she get her moment towards the end where you may (or may not) forgive her. Even Michelle Pfeiffer seems a little lost as the Collins matriarch, possibly due to the pacing of the early parts, or perhaps because she doesn’t serve a great deal of purpose, a problem that is shared with her onscreen brother, Roger (Miller). It really is a case of too many undeveloped cooks spoiling a rather unappealing broth, with Gulliver McGrath the ensemble’s only real standout as David Collins, deserving far more screen time as Roger’s young son who is more than a little troubled after the death of his mother.
In fact, everyone feels a little stale against Depp – surprising when Barnabus has far more restraint than a lot of his recent concoctions. Convincing throughout, Depp delivers Seth Grahame-Smith’s script fabulously, lingering over the minutest comic details and providing yet another perfected British accent while appearing from a totally different world to Barker, Sparrow and Rochester. There is potential for a really fascinating budding romance between Barnabus and Victoria (Heathcote – who really impresses here), but it is lazily brushed off in favour of more hijinks, including an aerial tussle with Angelique to Barry White, which results in the potential love triangle having an incredibly frustrating and unfulfilling conclusion.
It is impossible to deny Burton’s prodigious eye for creativity and the colourful, managing to create an impressive interior to the Collins’ dreary mansion, whilst a single crooked tree pitched at the end of a cliff feels synonymous with him. His flair for comedy is not yet lost, but this time around it is all courtesy of Depp who carries the movie with style and ease whilst making you wish he could get away from his current Burton bubble in his most serious moments.
With Frankenweenie on the horizon, fingers should remain crossed, but with his original projects having set the bar so incredibly high, the magic is missing from Burton’s latest supernatural yarn.