Dark Shadows, the eighth collaboration between filmmaker Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, is part comedy and part horror. But in all honesty the film does little justice to either genre. Based on a popular American soap opera from the 60s and early 70s, the film stars Depp as vampire Barnabass Collins who is resurrected from his coffin in 1972 after 200 years, to find his sprawling estate in ruin, his family’s fisheries business failing, and the vengeful witch who turned him into a bloodsucker (Eva Green) now the most successful person in their small coastal town. Teaming up with the current Collins matriarch (Michelle Pfeiffer), Barnabass is determined to set things right again.
A fish-out-of-water story on one level, most of the humor in Dark Shadows is built around the single joke that Barnabass doesn’t fit into the modern world of 1972. But Burton never commits to making a full-on comedy, throwing in some creepy horror elements that occasionally work, but also a tiring love triangle that you’ll find too dull to emotionally invest in.
As Angelique, the selfish witch still carrying a torch for Barnabass, Eva Green is deliciously evil, and easily one of the best things in the film. Helena Bonham Carter as a loopy psychiatrist in the Collins home gets some quirky moments to shine; but Depp himself, who’s created such memorable weirdo characters as Edward Scissorhands, Ichabod Crane, Willy Wonka, and the Mad Hatter in previous collaborations with Burton, appears strangely detached here.
As with most Burton productions, the costume design, the sets, and the special effects are top-class, helping create a believable alternate reality in which his stories exist. The problem sadly is that it’s style over substance in this oddball film.
I’m going with two out of five for Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows. It all looks great…but there’s little else to it