Dark Shadows 2012 ★★★½

Following his curiously inert and disappointing adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, Tim Burton more or less bounces back with another adaptation – this time of the oddball tv soap opera Dark Shadows. Set in the hazy year of 1972, Burton's Dark Shadows opens with a preamble two centuries prior. Barnabas Collins, heir to the wealthy Collins family, spurs the love of Angelique and pays a terrible price. For Angelique is a witch, and curses Barnabas and his entire family. His parents and true love Josette dead, Barnabas flings himself from a cliff, hoping to follow them. But alas, he wakes a vampire, and Angelique and the town mob in full pitchforks-and-torches-mode imprison and bury him in a steel coffin. Fast forward two hundred years (okay, 196 years if you want to be a stickler about it), and Barnabas is accidentally excavated and released – only to find a family and a world much changed. But some things remain the same…

Dark Shadows is a tonally weird movie; Burton's signature gothic intricacies and stylings are in a constant duel with the mundane campness of the '70s setting, and it struggles for a good while to find its groove. Or, quite possibly, it was me who struggled to get in sync with it – until it dawned on me: Dark Shadows is basically a weird mating of The Addams Family and The Ice Storm. Burton's movie has none of the subtlety and depth of Ang Lee's movie of course, but the tone and feel is somehow in the same ballpark. Only with vampires, witches, ghosts and other ghastly things. Following that realization, everything settled in nicely, and I found the ride quite enjoyable.

Johnny Depp (as Barnabas) and Helena Bonham Carter are (mostly) reliable Burton regulars and do a good job here – Depp in particular is entertainingly out of step with everyone else, but in a good and not overblown way. His old fashioned dialog is a lot of fun, and he pulls it off with style and excellent timing. The rest of the cast are for the most part newcomers to Burton's stable, with the exception of Michelle Pfeiffer and one other who may or may not be a surprise cameo – I'm not sure, so I'll refrain from revealing the name. The one who really deserves mention, however, is Eva Green as Angelique the witch, who easily steals every scene she's in – and not only because she's drop dead gorgeous. Green proves a natural fit for Burton's world, and bites into her character with obvious relish. Seductive, evil, funny and utterly convincing, she's a delight, and reason enough alone to see this movie.

If you've hated Burton's movies in the past, Dark Shadows is not going to win you over. If you're on the pumpkins-and-gravestones side of the fence, you're likely to find something to enjoy here, though. I certainly did!

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