"So rich in Burton's unconventional, twisted cinematic style that it almost becomes cringe-worthy..."
Johnny Depp. Helena Bonham Carter. Quirky, dark story of a vampire. It can only be one man really.
Of course that one man is Tim Burton - seemingly determined not to try anything new or test himself in any way, his latest feature Dark Shadows tells the fantasy story of Barnabas Collins (Depp), consigned to living as a vampire for eternity, following an evil spell by spurned lover and witch Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green) in 18th century America. However, despite being buried alive, his coffin is discovered two hundred years later by a curious group of construction workers, only to let Barnabas loose as he then seeks revenge on Angelique whilst also adamant in returning home and helping his financially struggling descendants.
Moving home alongside the somewhat sceptical family, consisting of Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer), Roger (Jonny Lee Miller) and children Carolyn (Chloë Grace Moretz) and David (Gulliver McGrath), Barnabas suddenly takes a liking to David's psychiatrist and newcomer Victoria (Bella Heathcote), reminding the ancient vampire of his former lover Josette. However, Barnabas' affections and desire are once more challenged by Angelique who remains as desperate as ever to win the heart of Barnabas, willing to do whatever she sees fit to getting what she wants.
Dark Shadows is so rich in Burton's unconventional, twisted cinematic style that it almost becomes cringe-worthy. The revolutionary director of Edward Scissorhands and early Batman movies, has almost become a parody of himself, with similar themes and styles presented in each of his features, with the same cast in almost every film he makes. It's got to a point where you almost only really like Tim Burton films for being Tim Burton films, when under the surface lies a highly ordinary and tedious feature that isn't actually any good.
Dark Shadows has got a very intriguing premise and one which holds much potential, especially the more comedic look at Barnabas attempting to adapt to life in the 1970's, unable to comprehend technology and McDonalds. In theory this is a film that should be brilliant, yet it simply tails off into tedium and nothingness, becoming so dreary and obvious as the narrative loses its way. Little makes any sense either, and at the risk of sounding pedantic given the film is a fantasy, one must question how the Collins family continued their legacy once the only surviving male member was locked away in a coffin for two hundred years. Also, who the hell is Victoria and why is she representative of the ghost of Josette? That whole sub-story doesn't make any sense at all.
There are a few positives however, mostly within the very stylistic imagery, as Burton uses visuals to such great effect as he always does, with an overstated mishmash of colours, for example in the Collins family doctor Julia Hoffman's (Bonham Carter) bizarre orange hair, which plays against her pale white skin and glowing red lipstick. Also, the combination of the dark, magical world of vampires and witches plays majestically against the 70's backdrop, as the combination of flares, disco music and blood-sucking all makes for a very memorable and provocative ambience.
Yet such an atmosphere and mood emanating from this feature doesn't save it from being far too boring and too obvious as far as Burton is concerned. There are the occasional funny and enjoyable moments, yet the embarrassing drawn-out cameo by Alice Cooper speaks volumes as the washed-up star's inclusion seems somewhat representative of a certain filmmaker, living of former glory. But hey, it's funny because his name is Alice. Right?