Dark Shadows review

'The Addams Family' without the fun, 'Dark Shadows' is unbearably long and lacking in laughs. Even consistently brilliant performances and Tim Burton’s excellent production design can't save this 1960s revival.

The hype…

The trailer promises a 'Beetlejuice'-esque romp to delight fans of early Burton desperate to a return to form from the talented director.

The story…
In 1752 the Collins family landed in Maine, North America and founded a fishing empire. Around them grew the small town of Collinsport and their family home of Collindale. Clearly the family was good with fish, less with imagination.

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Their son Barnabas grew into a shrewd and handsome man (Johnny Depp), beloved by the town, but especially by servant girl Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green). Barnabas allows himself to be tempted by Angelique, but his heart is eventually given to Josette DuPres (Bella Heathcote).

Unfortunately for him, his spurned lover is a master of the dark arts, and after dealing with Josette, Angelique curses the Collins family, dooming Barnabas to live forever as a vampire, and burying him alive for good measure.

In 1972, the Collins family has fallen on hard times thanks to the twin factors of a mysterious curse and a rival fishing firm known as Angel Bay. But when local building workers inadvertently dig up Barnabas, he resolves to help his family revive their fortunes - if he can cope with his insatiable blood lust, a still-angry witch, a distractingly pretty young governess at Collindale (Bella Heathcote again) and all the surprises the '70s have to offer.

The breakdown…
The plot is as long and rambling as it sounds, and the result is that any chance of a snappy comedy or even tightly-woven drama are buried in a thick layer of unnecessary waffle, superfluous characters and wasted production design.

This is a far cry from the baubles of 'Alice In Wonderland' or the lo-fi kitsch that Burton so often favours. Every gothic twist looks fantastic, and Eva Green's evil witch Angie is given a deliciously dark spin in later battle sequences. The costumes are chic and the '70s stylings done with a superb balance between the iconic, recognisable touches (lava lamps and flairs had to be there) and a strong sense of interpretative style. Visually, Burton is always impressive, and 'Dark Shadows' is up there with his best.

Likewise his cast of familiars are as committed as ever. Depp and Helena Bonham Carter (who features as an alcoholic psychologist) again prove adept at oddness and impeccable comic timing, while Michelle Pfeiffer (who plays modern matriarch Elizabeth) displays a grandeur few can match.

The trouble is that all of this talent is in the service of a script that goes nowhere. There's the odd laugh to be had, but if you made the mistake of watching the trailer you'll know them all already, and the drama is too muddled and diffuse to muster the kind of depth and intensity required to make this fantastical family truly connect.

Burton spends too long peering into the nooks and crannies of his characters without worrying about what he's going to do with them. It's a self-indulgence that can't be warranted in an already-long film, and as a result something that should have been fast-paced and full of devious surprises ends up stagnating to the point of terminal dullness.

The verdict…
This is more of a zoo or a museum, an exercise in displaying interesting creatures, than it is the wonderfully weird film we'd hoped for. A saddening waste of stunning visuals and otherworldly acting talent.

Rating: 1.5/5

'Dark Shadows' is due to be released in the UK on 11 May 2012. Certificate: 12A.

Watch the trailer for Dark Shadows starring Johnny Depp and Eva Green

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