Gothic Mess

Tim Burton and Johnny Depp return with a film that’s again an eccentric mix of comedy,horror and fantasy,set against a visually arresting background

Written by Shalini Langer | Published:May 12, 2012 3:42 am

DARK SHADOWS

Director: Tim Burton

Cast: Johnny Depp,Michelle Pfeiffer,Eva Green,Bella Heathcote,

Helena Bonham Carter

Rating: **

Tim Burton and Johnny Depp return with a film that’s again an eccentric mix of comedy,horror and fantasy,set against a visually arresting background. What’s lacking is the ability of the duo to go with it anywhere this time. Based on a TV series of the late 1960s,Dark Shadows seems stretched,pointless and confused as it tries to work its way towards a satisfactory end.

Besides,you are not sure about what Burton is saying here: is it comical to see a vampire trying to restore the honour of his family,particularly a dysfunctional one? Or is it really a revenge story of a vampire trying to finish a witch who killed his parents,his beloved and cursed him to eternal misery? Or is it a love story of the vampire rediscovering his true love now reborn as an equally gorgeous governess? Or is it about nothing in particular as Burton and his favourite actor,who has made quirky,off-kilter roles his trademark,veer about doing what catches their fancy? Particularly when the vampire doesn’t seem to care about anything much.

Disappointingly,the film progresses to fall more and more in the last category as it moves away from the funny interactions that Depp,the vampire,has with his Collins family towards a more conventional horror movie set-up,without any effort to build the mood for it.

The family bit is actually quite funny as Barnabas (Depp) wakes up from a slumber of 200 years,where witch Angelique (Green) has banished him,to realise that the world is a very different place from 1776,when he left it,to 1972,when he has returned. The family mansion of 200 rooms,built with great love and attention by Barnabas’s father and fit for their flourishing shipping empire,is now practically in ruins.

The Collins family is reduced to seven people,though the film never explains how exactly they are related to Barnabas: Elizabeth (Pfeiffer),the head of the household; her sulky,rebellious 15-year-old daughter Caroline (Chloe Grace Moretz,last seen in Hugo); Elizabeth’s good-for-nothing brother; the brother’s son,David,who sees ghosts; and a psychologist with a drinking problem,Dr Hoffman (Carter),who came in to cure David but just stayed on. They are joined by Victoria (Heathcote),who has taken up the job to be David’s governess but who is hiding a secret of her own. Victoria,too,is haunted by the ghost of Barnabas’s dead girlfriend.

Into this mix walks in Barnabas as only Depp can: blundering and lovable,confused and disarming and hopeless but hopeful.

While Green gives Depp’s vampire the full red-lip-luscious-witch treatment,their “relationship” and ferocious lovemaking again seems more for effect than anything else.

It has the clouds,the trees,the blind corners,the dampness and heavy metal’s gothic star Alice Cooper. If only Dark Shadows could lose some of the lightness.

SL

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