- Running time:
- 112 minutes
- Johnny Depp -
- Barnabas Collins
- Michelle Pfeiffer -
- Elizabeth Collins Stoddard
- Helena Bonham Carter -
- Dr. Julia Hoffman
- Eva Green -
- Angelique Bouchard
- Jackie Earle Haley -
- Willie Loomis
Dark Shadows (* * ½ out of four, rated PG-13, opens Friday nationwide) is at its best in comic mode, more effective as goofy spoof than horror show.
The film's strength lies in the juxtaposition of director Tim Burton's Gothic world with '70s pop culture references such as lava lamps and the music of the Carpenters.
Arcane 1700s-era dialogue spoken by the central figure, the reluctant vampire Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp), is particularly funny in its incongruity with the flower-power world in which he finds himself.
Though the ads make it look like a ghoulishly kooky Addams Family-style tale, this is by no means an ensemble piece. Nearly everyone other than Depp comes off as drably one-note.
Based on a campy 1966-1971 TV soap opera, the movie focuses on fish-out-of-water (or vampire-out-of-coffin) humor. But it bookends the funny stuff with run-of-the-mill special effects and action. A consistent comic tone would have made it all more enjoyable.
Barnabas' origin story is standard-issue in the realm of monster sagas. A playboy back in the 18th century, he dallied with lusty housemaid Angelique (Eva Green) but fell in love with pure-hearted Josette (Bella Heathcote). But Angelique was a witch who cast a spell that killed Josette and turned Barnabas into a vampire.
Set in the fishing village of Collinsport, Maine, which was established in 1750 by Joshua and Naomi Collins, the story grows lively when their aristocratic son, Barnabas, suddenly emerges in 1972, parched with bloodthirst. He finds his way to his family's ancestral manor, baffled by all he sees in the new world of hippies and troll dolls.
His relatives, now languishing in the faded elegance of the estate, take the return of their ancestor blandly in stride. Barnabas is determined to restore his family's luster and regain control of their fishing enterprise.
Not only does the humor disappear in the attenuated climactic finale, but so does a key character — for no discernible reason.
Depp's dialogue is a comical hybrid of formal and droll: His nemesis, Angelique — now Angie and the town's leading businesswoman — is "a whore of Beelzebub and succubus from Satan." Burton's offbeat montages are amusing, but the story's slow start and overblown conclusion make Dark Shadows half a good movie.
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