Tim Burton and his silver-screen partner Johnny Depp shuffle before us once again with their newest collaboration, Dark Shadows -to entertain us with their niche in ‘quirky’ cinema. However, Burton’s ‘glory days’ during the late-1980s and 1990s are long-gone. The director’s recent films demonstrate a once formidable, artistic-vision, a vision which has become a pale reflection of his most creative period.
The films Burton has churned out since ’99s Sleepy Hollow have ranged from mediocre to plain-old-rubbish. So, is Dark Shadows worth watching or is it time for Burton to be consigned to the shadows, which he loves so much? I popped down to The Barn Cinema, in Dartington, to find out…
Dark Shadows is an adaptation of a Gothic, American TV series, which was originally broadcast during the 1960s, in America. Apparently, both Depp and Burton were huge fans -hence the remake. Johnny Depp plays Barnabas Collins, a member of a prosperous, British family, in 18th century New England. When he spurns the advances of the local witch, Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green), he’s turned into a vampire and buried alive. Fast-forward to 1972 where Barnabas is accidentally dug-up, only to discover his family business, which has been passed down through the generations, is in ruins -while Green’s witch has prospered. Thus, Barnabas sets about restoring the family business and fortune.
This is Burton’s seventh film since Sleepy Hollow. Unsurprisingly, it is not the return to form that [I] and many others have yearned for, but neither is it a disaster. What Dark Shadows is, is a perfectly average, macabre comedy. It is neither great nor terrible, it is Meh! It is amusing in places, but in a very safe, ‘middle-America’ sort of way, with both Depp and Green getting the chance to show off their more ‘dramatic’, vampy-abilities, but as with the six films which preceded this effort, it just feels like Tim Burton is imitating himself, as if he’s treading water, while he casually attempts to rediscover his once great, artistic sensibilities.
Still, things tick along at a reasonable pace, and slot A unsurprisingly fits rather comfortably into a slot B. Burton could never be accused of being a hack director. The narrative unfolds with confidence and while the ‘man out of time’ trope may be a little trite, Burton and Depp manage to deliver it with a modicum of gusto and humour. If there is any real problem with the film -other than the director’s creative exhaustion -then it revolves around Chloe Moretz’s character, Carolyn. The problem with Carolyn comes with the characters literal transformation, which appears from nowhere, completely unexpected. While her transformation might be in-keeping with the films theme, the fact it’s never alluded to prior, makes the transformation bizarre and ultimately rather pointless, which -to be perfectly brutal -is a bit like the film, and dare I say it, the director to.
If this is the best Burton has to offer, then perhaps he should take a hiatus from filmmaking. Either that or it’s time to ditch the ‘regulars’; Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and why not include Danny Elfman too. The Burton brand is in desperate need of revitalising, he needs to rediscover what is was which made his films -at one point -so magical, because his once dazzling oeuvre of the strange and gothic has become terribly diluted. The Burton brand, limps weakly, pathetically, on