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Dark Shadows (DQ)


Stars: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Eva Green, Chloe Grace Moretz, Jonny Lee Miller, Jackie Earle Haley

Director: Tim Burton

Perhaps the most fortunate film yet to get away with a 12A certificate - and, needless to say, totally unsuitable for younger children - Burton's splashy remake of the 1960s/1970s Goth cult classic falls rather predictably between comic horror and bloodsoaked thriller. That the latter wins is also no surprise and Burton lets the special effects guys have their head in a traditionally apocalyptic final reel.

In 1776, Barnabas Collins (Depp), only son of a fishing magnate who has made his fortune after emigrating from Liverpool to New England, is cursed with vampirism by the comely witch (Green) whose advances he had spurned. Buried alive in a chained coffin, he's awakened nearly 200 years later by a mechanical digger, ripping out the throats of the construction crew who have freed him, before heading for the old Collins mansion.

Here he finds the gigantic pile in disrepair, but presided over by icy widow Elizabeth (Pfeiffer). Also there are her strange daughter Carolyn (Moretz), ne'er-do-well brother Roger (Miller, with a rotten part) and his small son (Gully McGrath), who seems to be in commune with his dead mother's ghost - plus alcoholic caretaker Loomis (Haley) and a flamboyant, orange-haired psychiatrist (Bonham Carter), hired to help the disturbed boy.

Architect of the decline of the family business from a fishing fleet to a rundown cannery is Angelique, coincidentally the same witch who condemned Barnabas to his bloodsucking lifestyle. Barnabas, however, reveals hidden riches to restore the family fortunes - but clearly Angelique isn't going to stand for that.

Although stylishly made and designed, the film is actually pretty dull at times, ultimately being neither scary nor funny enough; after a promising beginning, it's downhill from half-way, and the violent sex scene between Depp and Green, as they crash into walls and ceilings, seems there just to show off effects rather than have any logical place in the plot.

There's also too little interplay between the characters and too little genuine wit in what there is. That said, a chalk-faced Depp couldn't be bettered, and Bonham Carter has a ball. Blink and you'll certainly miss Jonathan Frid, the original Barnabas, who died a few weeks ago. Depp exclaims at the end that the curse has been lifted, but it clearly hasn't, so, depending on box-office results, stand by for Dark Shadows 2.

David Quinlan

USA 2012. UK Distributor: Warner Brothers. Technicolor.
113 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 09 May 2012