Tim Burton fans will be glad to know that Dark Shadows marks a return to form after the disappointment of Alice in Wonderland. Burton — and Depp, for that matter — are back in form with this loving spoof of the old Dan Curtis TV series. Accidentally released after 196 years from his imprisonment in the grave, vampire Barnabas Collins (Depp) returns to his ancestral estate to become part of the family. That’s more or less in keeping with the TV show, but the film has a somewhat different idea in mind — the business of Barnabas dealing with the startling differences between 1776 and 1972. In this regard, the film attains its full Burtonesque quality, with Barnabas the ultimate outsider who finds himself in the midst of a family of a different kind of outsiders. It also allows the film to be a nostalgic excursion into Burton’s own childhood, with the music, fads, and peculiarities of that era. Its closest antecedent is Edward Scissorhands. Burton uses the era to good advantage. Some of it is for comic effect — a secret room filled with Elizabeth Collins Stoddard’s (Michelle Pfeiffer) macrame projects, Barnabas encountering ’70s curios like troll dolls and lava lamps, etc. — but the film wisely eschews an outright mocking tone. Sure, Barnabas assesses Alice Cooper (hired to play at his “happening”) as the “ugliest woman I’ve ever seen,” but he’s shown to have a taste for the music itself. And so, for that matter, is Burton, who shows a surprising ability to use pop music to good effect. Is the film perfect? No. I wish it was. It tends to go astray toward the end, which is almost to say once it drops the culture clash aspect. The last section is almost all plot, and that’s the least interesting thing in the film. Still, I’d recommend it — enthusiastically to Burton fans, more cautiously to others.
Director: Tim Burton
Writer: Dan Curtis
Cast: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Chloe Moretz, Eva Green, Michelle Pfeiffer, Thomas McDonell, Jackie Earle Haley, Bella Heathcote and Gulliver McGrath