2012 Running time: 109 Certificate: 12 Rating: 4

Synopsis

Johnny Depp and Tim Burton reteam to resurrect one of the campest TV cults of the 60s in this fang-in-cheek gothic romp. Depp hams it to perfection as Barnabas Collins, a 200-year-old vampire who emerges from his tomb in 1972 to find his once-proud family in decline and the town they built now run by the witch who cursed him to eternal undeath (Eva Green). Michelle Pfeiffer, Chloe Grace Moretz and Jonny Lee Miller are the descendants whose fortunes Barnabas seeks to revive, while Helena Bonham Carter offers sozzled insight as their live-in shrink and Bella Heathcote adds a sweet air of mystery as the new governess. Take your partners for a surprisingly bawdy and delightfully ditzy danse macabre.

Director

  • Tim Burton

Cast

  • Johnny Depp

  • Eva Green

  • Michelle Pfeiffer

  • Helena Bonham Carter

  • Jonny Lee Miller

  • Chloë Grace Moretz

Review

Running for 1,225 episodes, Dark Shadows is one of the greatest American TV cults you've probably never heard of.

Low in budget but high in camp (it was the late 60s) and chock-full of freakish characters, outlandish plots and unnatural goings-on, it was basically Emmerdale gone emo.

But, in following the morbidly amusing affairs of an oddball clan at their spooky old mansion, its most obvious ancestors would be The Addams Family and The Munsters.

Hallowed ground, then, for the gothic stylings of Tim Burton. And, as the show's flamboyant centre of attention, a source of rich comedic pickings for his regular partner-in-crime Johnny Depp.

A swiftly moving prologue takes us back to 1750, whence the Collins family left Liverpool and its "reek of freshly chucked chamberpots" to found the thriving fishing hub of Collinsport on the coast of Maine.

Alas, it all goes hex-shaped when young Barnabas (Depp) spurns comely maid Angelique (Green) in favour of the beautiful lady Josette (Heather Graham-alike Heathcote).

Since she's a witch, Angelique ensures not only that their romance will end on the rocks but that Barnabas will regret his decision for all eternity... by turning him into a vampire and having him buried alive... undead... whatever.

So when Barnabas is inadvertently sprung from his grave in 1972, he finds himself a particularly strange stranger in a very strange world.

He returns to Collinwood Manor to find the place, the remaining Collinses and the family business all gone to pot.

While confiding his undead situation to matriarch Elizabeth (Pfeiffer; classy), Barnabas is just another long-lost family weirdo to her tetchy daughter Carolyn (Moretz; shouty), sneaky brother Roger (Miller; subdued) and Roger's troubled son David (Gully McGrath).

Making up the household are slightly dim caretaker Willy (Jackie Earle Haley), the family's live-in psychiatrist Dr Hoffman (Bonham Carter), who drinks better than she shrinks, and David's new governess Victoria, whose resemblance to his dear Josette is one of many surprises in store for Barnabas.

But the greatest is that Collinsport and its industry has been monopolised by a terribly familiar-looking entrepreneuse called Ange. And she's about as likely to restore free enterprise as she is to free Barnabas of his eternal curse.

Depp is in his element, rolling his eyes and "R"s in a ham-tastic display of gesticulation and enunciation.

Whether making inappropriate comments to minors ("Fifteen and no husband?!"), tasting hippie culture (the emphasis on tasting hippies rather than their culture) or making room-wrecking whoopee with Angelique, his Barnabas is a veritable tour de farce.

On a slight downer, the romance between Barnabas and Victoria/Josette is tepid and, perhaps inevitably, some characters are underserved.

Young David, for instance, is far from the terror initially advertised, while Miller's skulking Roger never comes out of the wings. Conversely, the guest appearance of Alice Cooper is less a treat for the audience than one suspects it was for the crew.

And though they have a bearing on the plot, little light is shed on the deaths of Elizabeth's husband and David's mother.

Still, Seth Grahame-Smith's script is nothing if not fun, its entendres and general bawdiness adding extra zest to Burton's trademark visuals. Dark Shadows: where Carry On meets True Blood.

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