Tim Burton’s reputation for passion projects will not be in jeopardy any time soon with this latest release. After 5 years of production the adaptation of Dan Curtis’s soap opera Dark Shadows is finally here. Dark Shadows attempts to capture the Twilight crowd and earn back Burton’s reputation as the goths’ answer to Steven Spielberg. Johnny Depp, who earned a producer credit alongside his leading role, plays old world vampire Barnabas Collins, originally an 18h century coloniser who had the misfortune of breaking the heart of Angelique, a witch played by Eva Green (The Dreamers, Casino Royale). Angelique, understandably, turns him into a vampire. She then buries him, presumably for the laugh, until 1972 when he is dug up by construction workers, with hilarious consequences. What follows is Barnabas attempting to shake the family curse that’s plagued the Collins family since his mishap with Angelique. [Watch trailer]
The film’s strength is in its aesthetic. Burton’s use of CGI is impressive, and Amélie cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel compliments the retro backdrop. Though highly romanticised, the town of Collinsport is like something from a Stephen King novel, falling between intriguingly supernatural and plain dull. Music by regular collaborator Danny Elfman serenades the Burton atmosphere, and the 1960s-70s tracks work surprisingly well interspersed with Elfman’s score. Top it off with a cameo from Alice Cooper and lovers of this era in music will definitely dig, man.
The cast are seasoned enough and know what they’re doing, even if their characters don’t. Helena Bonham Carter is of course along for the ride, this time playing alcoholic Dr. Julia Hoffman, psychiatrist to the rich and potty. Jonny Lee Miller (Trainspotting, Hackers) takes the role of disappointing dad, while Gulliver McGrath (Hugo) fills the part of disappointed son. Chloë Moretz (Kick Ass, Hugo) plays Carolyn, the teenage daughter of Michelle Pfeiffer’s Elizabeth Collins. Moretz manages to pull off stoned, apathetic teenager without being too obnoxious, which is no easy feat. The same cannot be said of Pfeiffer whose character is either illogically psychotic or badly written. However, most useless character goes to Victoria Winters, played by newcomer Bella Heathcote. Governess and Johnny Depp’s love interest are her two settings. Heathcoate and Depp’s chemistry is unconvincing at times. When it comes to sex, unnecessary is the word of the day. If you’re not certain a sex scene is supposed to be funny, there’s something wrong.
There are humorous one-liners, sneaky nods to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and Barnabas’s induction into 20th century society does induce giggling. Yet alongside a ghost story and a romance and countless other major shifts in tone the film becomes exhausting. Dark Shadows can’t decide whether it wants to be horror, melodrama, comedy or erotica. Overall the film tries to do everything but succeeds at nothing. Unless vampires are all you need.
In cinemas 11 May 2012.