Based on a gothic soap opera that aired between 1966 and 1971, Dark Shadows is the latest directorial release from Hollywood’s card carrying weirdo: Tim Burton. Eighteenth century fish merchant Barnabas Collins [Johnny Depp] spurns his seductive servant Angelique Bouchard [Eva Green] . In a jealous rage Angelique magics Barnabas’ dearest love Josette [Bella Heathcote] off a cliff and simultaneously curses Barnabus into vampire form, forcing him to forever live with his guilt.
Out to prove the old adage: ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’ Angelique further entraps Barnabas in a coffin and buries him alive. 200 years later Barnabus awakes in 1972 to find Angelique is still kicking about and is still running the show. Old Barn should have just done the right thing – what any man in his position would have done – and given in to Eva Green’s bewitching magnetism. Yes, this would have made for a shorter film but given what followed this paint-by-numbers opening, that could only be a good thing.
Dark Shadows is not completely without merit. Chloe Grace Moretz is perfectly cast as the next-gen, angry teenager who is initally unwilling to accept Barnabas back into the family. Eva Green looks as gorgeous as ever. It is amusing to watch Depp shout “Reveal yourself tiny songstress!” as Karen Carpenter sings on TV and it’s always pleasant to see Jonny Lee Miller getting work. These are, however, small compensations for a film that is flatly paced and shamefully underwritten. The whole affair feels like an in-joke you’re unable to appreciate and although the actors do well with what they have none of them, Depp aside, get the time or attention they need to establish themselves in their roles.
As a loyal disciple of Burton’s early work it is disappointing to see that his output is still stuck in the soul-destroying stagnation that started around the time of Planet of the Apes/Mars Attacks! Dark Shadows adds nothing to Burton’s repetoire; Ed Wood remains the jewel in his directorial crown – a point which leaves Barry’s famous sub-question from High Fidelity ringing in my ears: “is it unfair to criticise a formerly great artist for his latter day sins, is it better to burn out or fade away?” Having sat through 113 minutes of mindless monotony last night, right now I’d say burning out is the way to go.