Johnny be good
Director: Tim Burton ( Alice in Wonderland) Stars: Johnny Depp, Eva Green, Michelle Pfeiffer, Chloe Moretz, Gulliver Mcgrath, Bella Heathcote Depp gets it right in inconsistent light
THE works of filmmaker Tim Burton have traditionally been disconnected from reality. Audiences don’t just expect it of him, they demand it.
However, with Dark Shadows, an erratic mish- mash of horror, comedy and camp period satire, Burton delivers less than even his most ardent followers might have bargained for.
Sure, Burton’s knack for welding the weird and the way- out to the creative and innovative is still very much in evidence here. And long- time collaborator Johnny Depp is in fine form in front of the cameras.
But the movie never threatens to come together as a cohesive whole when the pressure to entertain is really on.
Depp stars as Barnabas Collins, a vampire who was buried alive in the 18th century by a witchy wronged lover named Angelique ( Eva Green).
When Barnabas is finally busted loose from his coffin, it is 1972. Making tracks immediately for his ancestral home – now occupied by a band of dysfunctional distant relatives ( played by Michelle Pfeiffer, Chloe Moretz and young Australian newcomers Bella Heathcote and Gulliver Mcgrath) – our undead hero sets about getting himself a life.
Complications surface everywhere Barnabas turns. After 200 years without blood, he is understandably thirsty.
Though he’s enough of a gentleman to apologise before helping himself to your neck, he will viciously kill you all the same ( as a gang of construction workers and a group of hippie stoners will later discover).
And Angelique is very much alive and well, running the biggest business in town. She hopes Barnabas might have learnt his lesson, and will succumb to her charms again. If not, she’ll bury him once more.
Depp does everything he can to drag Dark Shadows into the light. His timing and delivery is brilliant throughout, and his ongoing bafflement at all things 1970s is the best thing about the picture.
As with all Tim Burton affairs, the production design is a work of art in itself, and the use of AM radio hits of the era ( and a surprise live appearance by Alice Cooper) also pays its way.
Nevertheless, there is something about Dark Shadows that just doesn’t feel right.
You can sense that Burton knows it, too. It is undoubtedly the most uncertain movie of his career, often checking, correcting and contradicting itself.
The storytelling is very scrappy. Key supporting characters go missing in action for long periods. When they do return, their relevance to the tale is slight at best.
There is also a kinky streak to a handful of scenes that further scramble Dark Shadows’ true intentions.
The source material, an obscure TV series more than four decades old, is undoubtedly the major problem.
Burton is clearly a rabid fan, but that enthusiasm often comes off as an in- joke with a cryptic punchline. The viewer is kept on the outer, none the wiser about what’s so funny. LEIGH PAATSCH Now showing Village Cinemas