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Dark Shadows

Dark Shadows

Released 11 May 2012
Director Tim Burton

Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Bella Heathcote, Eva Green, Jonny Lee Miller, Chloe Grace Moretz
Writer(s) Seth Grahame-Smith

Christi Dembrowski, Johnny Depp, David Kennedy, Graham King, Richard D. Zanuck
Origin United States
Running Time 113 minutes
Genre Fantasy, comedy
Rating 12A


The latest in a stream of 1960s American TV soap remakes, Dark Shadows is a reverent nod to the hugely successful ABC sitcom that ran from 1966 to 1971. Part The Addams Family, part The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Dark Shadows dealt with largely occult themes peppered by vampires, zombies and monsters. Fertile ground then, for a remake by self-confessed Gothic junkie Tim Burton. With Johnny Depp on board for their eighth collaboration Burton tackles the beloved cult hit with typical cinematic fervour but for those expecting typically sinister fare from the duo be prepared for something a lot more mellow.

A five minute prologue sets the context of Dark Shadows-the year is 1752 and the prosperous Collins family are boarding a ship that will take them from the "urine stenched" alleys of Liverpool to the east coast of America where they hope to build a fishing empire in Maine. Two decades pass and Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp), beloved son, inveterate playboy and heir to the fortunes of the family business has fallen deeply in love with beautiful and innocent Josette Du Pres. Their burgeoning love is however doomed by spurned lover (and witch) Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green) who casts a curse that sees Josette leap to her death from a cliff and Barnabas turned into a vampire and buried alive. Two hundred years later and workmen stumble upon the coffin of Barnabas. Their curiosity inadvertently releases him from his rusty binds and with a new 'thirst' for life he returns to his former mansion Collinwood only to find it crumbling into decay and inhabited by distant relations who comprise a depressive matriarch, her thieving brother, petulant daughter, a beautiful governess, a hallucinatory young boy and an alcoholic psychiatrist who wilfully abuses the family's limited stores. Determined to restore the family fortune Barnabas sets out to reinstate the Collins' pre-eminence in the canning and fishing market but he faces a major hurdle in the voluptuous form of  'Angie' whose obsession with Barnabas has not waned over the past two centuries.

Dark Shadows has all the Burton hallmarks that one would expect. A pervasiveness eerieness, extensive use of stage makeup, misty environs and crumbling Gothic manors are all featured and yet, there is something missing. Perhaps its that particular brand of twistedness that Burton and Depp usually bring to their cinematic endeavours that is noticeably absent here. Dark Shadows is much more tame than it ought to be. The rollicking seventies tunes are used to good effect but they have a tendency to dissipate the necessary scare factor which could have made this a much more accomplished piece of noir film. Depp is as adept as ever as the charmingly bloodthirsty former scion of the powerful Collins family but much of the jokes are based around his frequent run-ins with the paraphernalia of the 1970s and if truth be told, too many of the laughs are cheap. Eva Green proves once again that she can 'do' dark femme fatale roles and while it's always a pleasure to see Michelle Pfeiffer onscreen these days it is rather a pity that a meatier role was not up for grabs for the Oscar nominated actress. The biggest flaw of Dark Shadows however is that the abundance of characters makes for a script that is spread a little too thin. A late plot twist involving Carolyn (Chloe Moretz) seems a touch superfluous and is largely unnecessary while the romance between Barnabas and sweet-faced Victoria is a bit of a stretch. The cinematography however is excellent-atmospheric and theatrical, and there are several vignettes that are truly enjoyable but on the whole, Dark Shadows is crushingly disappointing.

- Louisa McElwee