Welcome to Burton-land. You know the score (as written by Danny Elfman) because you’ve seen it so many times before in Beetlejuice, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and so on. Now Burton has taken a cult US TV series (which few on this side of the pond would be familiar with) and rewired it his way with regulars Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter chewing up the gothic sets as a 200 year-old vampire and a drunken shrink respectively.
Dark Shadows begins in the late 18th Century with Barnabas Collins (Depp) as the scion of a family of emigrants who make a new home – Collinsport – in the New World. Barnabas has a fling with a kitchen maid (Eva Green) and then spurns her. This is a bad move because this lady just happens to be a witch who sends Barnabas’s true love to her doom before changing him into a vampire and then having him trussed up in chains and buried.
Some two hundred years later the undead Collins is accidentally dug up and returns to the family home – now a crumbling pile occupied by dysfunctional descendants who are facing financial ruin.
The beginnings are the best: not least because they promise, well I’m not sure what, but there is the hope that Burton will magic up another Sleepy Hollow. And with Depp (looking like a cross between Nosferatu and Johnny Depp in a Tim Burton movie) and a cracking cast that also includes Chloe Moretz, Michelle Pfeiffer, Eva Green and Jackie Earle Haley, we're hopeful.
Burton has said that this is a film he can’t quite categorise – trying to nail the elusive tone was the problem – and it shows. Dark Shadows begins as some sort of Seventies pastiche before melting into a melodramatic mishmash of archness and horror before the director ultimately resorts to the cinematic equivalent of fairground trickery with a banister morphing into a giant serpent, statues coming to life and ghouls erupting out of every crook and crevice.
Towards the end of the movie – with Collinwood House burning to the ground – one of the kids asks ‘what will we do now?’
To which Michelle Pfeiffer replies: “We endure”.
I know how she feels.