Direction: Tim Burton
Cast: Johnny Depp, Eva Green
A big-screen reworking of the 1960s gothic soap opera, Dark Shadows marks the eighth collaboration between those mavens of the macabre, Johnny Depp and Tim Burton.
Reportedly a rabid fan of the television series created by the late Dan Curtis (to whom the film is dedicated), Depp portrays a rich playboy in 18th century Maine.
A breezy prologue reveals that the protagonist has been turned into a vampire and buried alive by his spurned lover, who happens to be a witch (Green). When he finally manages to escape from his tomb, it is 1972, allowing director Burton (Alice in Wonderland) to let his playfully dark imagination run riot.
A lot has changed over the course of the two centuries since our undead hero was first locked away. His once-grand ancestral mansion, now occupied by a dysfunctional band of descendants, has fallen into ruin.
Meanwhile, the befuddled bloodsucker, who even mistakes a McDonalds sign for the mark of Mephistopheles, vows to restore his family fishing business to its former glory, never mind the renewed presence of his witchy rival.
A satire on the societal conventions of the era, the somewhat laborious script melds melodrama, supernatural romance and culture-clash comedy. Subplots involving the modern-day matriarch (Michelle Pfeiffer) and her extended family aren't satisfactorily resolved.
A whimsical fantasy desperate to make it to the blockbuster category, the film features creative production design as well as a wonderful ’70s-inflected music score by Burton regular Danny Elfman. Plus, there are cameos by the original Dracula, Christopher Lee, and rock star Alice Cooper, who's hilariously mistaken for a woman.
Johnny Depp animates his lovesick vampire with aplomb. The rest of the cast barely makes an impression, though. Despite the occasional longueurs, Dark Shadows is still worth a trip.