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Review: Dark Shadows


Tim Burton and Johnny Depp's most recent collaboration since the atrocious Alice in Wonderland is Dark Shadows. Burton's re-imaging of the cult 1960s/70s Gothic soap opera features all that fans have come to expect from him - kitsch nostalgia, zany humour and dark chills - however, the end result leans closer towards Alice in Wonderland than the wonderful Ed Wood.

Dark Shadows follows imprisoned vampire, Barnabas Collins (Depp) escaping from his coffin after over 200 years. He emerges in 1972, returning to his former home of Collinwood, staying with his dysfunctional descendants, however, bigger problems emerge as the witch who imprisoned him, Angelique (Eva Green), remains at large in the town of Collinsport.

Dark Shadows retains Burton's distinct visual style which captures the gothicism of 1700s England and combines it with the garish nature of the groovy seventies. In fact, Dark Shadows is at its' strongest through Burton's kooky homage to the decade. Barnabas enters the 1970s as an outsider, which allows for amusing comedic moments, whether the vampire is fixated by a lava lamp or taking apart television wires calling Karen Carpenter a "tiny songstress".

As well as boasting original music by Danny Elfman, Burton features a nostalgic soundtrack including Curtis Mayfield's Superfly, Iggy Pop, The Carpenters and Barry White. There is also a rather clunky musical cameo from Alice Cooper, which despite being shoehorned in, does provide one laugh when Barnabas describes the singer as “the ugliest woman I've ever seen."

Unfortunately, this comedy is not prevalent enough to be memorable, instead Dark Shadows serves as confusing amalgamation of several genres - never truly excelling in any of them. Instead of staying true to the dramatic roots of the original series, Burton largely disregards them. The horror is present in doses, but never enough to make Dark Shadows truly scary.

Depp does a solid job in his portrayal of Barnabas, but like all his Burton collaborations post-Sleepy Hollow, the character is a difficult one to be sympathetic towards. He may love his family, but he also goes around slaughtering innocent people - this odd combination makes him a challenging character to connect with.

The main joy of Dark Shadows comes from several of the supporting performances, mainly those from Michelle Pfeiffer and Eva Green. Pfeiffer brings a strong-willed determination to the role of the family's matriarch, Elizabeth Collins. It's hard not to be entranced as she walks down the manor stairs brandishing a pump action shotgun. The role of Angelique allows Eva Green to ham it up as the cold, twisted superbitch, previously scorned by Barnabas. Green's accent is a curious combination of English and French, likely to keep you interested - mainly thinking, 'who does she sound like?' Chloe Grace Moretz, Helena Bonham Carter and  Sir Christopher Lee shine in smaler supporting roles, adding to Burton's traditional ensemble cast.

While the frantic combination of genres may leave Dark Shadows feeling slightly disjointed and forgettable, a capable performance from Depp makes it passable. Other small joys can be found in the larger than life supporting performances and kitsch 1970s nostalgia. Despite, several disappointments, there is simply something quite likeable about Dark Shadows.

RATING: 2.5/5 


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