Film review: DARK SHADOWS, from Built For Speed

Johnny Depp loves playing eccentric, campily-attired, strangely-voiced characters, particularly when he collaborates with director Tim Burton. He’s delivered bizarre performances of varying quality in Burton flicks such as Edward Scissorhands, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and most memorably in the biopic of Plan 9 from Outer Space director Ed Wood.

Playing an 18th century gentleman vampire reawakened in the early 1970’s would seem to be perfect material for another quirky Depp-Burton collaboration and while there’s plenty to enjoy in Dark Shadows there’s a nagging sense that something’s missing from the story.

Depp plays the lordly Barnabus Collins, heir to a family fortune who, in 1776, is turned into a vampire and locked in a coffin by a powerful witch Angelique (Eva Green) whose affections he has spurned. Unearthed in 1972 he sets about resurrecting the Collins family business, battling the still living Angelique and drinking the blood of the local townsfolk.

With his frock coat, frilly shirts, deathly white face, Nosferatu fingers and pompous, quasi-Shakespearean verbiage, Depp is a riot; his fruity performance is reason enough to see this film.

Dark Shadows also boasts s terrific female cast, in addition to Green there’s Michelle Pfeiffer as Barnabus’ distant relative who now runs the Collins mansion, Helena Bonham Carter as a flaky psychiatrist treating Pfeiffer’s spooky son and Aussie actress Bella Heathcote as both Josette, Barnabus’ original love from the 18th Century and Victoria her 1970’s incarnation.

Unfortunately, this fine cast can’t completely overcome a mediocre script that tries to be both horror and comedy but doesn’t entirely succeed as either.

There are some funny moments usually involving Depp doing something weird but too often the film resorts to cheap, low-brow gags. Also, the film doesn’t make enough of the Austin Powers-style fish out of water scenario as Depp is only briefly phased by his reawakening 200 years in the future. Dark Shadows also doesn’t handle Depp’s relationship with Heathcote as well as it could as she’s absent for large parts of the film.

Being a Tim Burton film it is of course visually stunning, particularly in the prologue which recalls Interview with a Vampire.

There was a lot of promise here and Depp is still worth seeing but it doesn’t entirely work.


Director: Tim Burton

Released: 10th May 2012

Running time: 113 minutes

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