Not so creepy, not so kooky

Tim Bur­ton sinks ever deeper into self-par­ody with his lat­est sub-gothic comic hor­ror riff, writes Don­ald Clarke

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreview­s -

THE TEMP­TA­TION to in­dulge in sar­casm is ir­re­sistible. Oh look. Tim Bur­ton’s made a sub-gothic comic hor­ror star­ring both Johnny Depp and He­lena Bon­ham Carter in thick, pale make-up. Danny Elf­man pro­vides the score. What next? Rain on a bank hol­i­day? Straw­ber­ries at Wim­ble­don?

One could, of course, ar­gue that Bur­ton has de­vised his own genre. But the defin­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics of Bur­to­nia are so su­per­fi­cial that the de­fence just won’t hold up. A lit­tle bit of cod sur­re­al­ism here. A touch of macabre hu­mour here. Sea­son it with Elf­man’s jaunty chords and you are good to go.

Dark Shad­ows has to be the most per­func­tory, most self- par­o­dic en­try to the canon thus far. Based on a 1960s TV se­ries that al­most no­body re­mem­bers, the picture stars Depp as a rich landowner who, af­ter fall­ing foul of a witch dur­ing the late 18th cen­tury, gets turned into a vampire and is buried in an iron cof­fin for 200 years. Mean­while, his de­scen­dents have evolved into a deca­dent gang of bour­geois sour­pusses. Michelle Pfeif­fer is drinky-drinky mom. Chloë Grace Moretz is the surly daugh­ter. Bon­ham Carter is a vis­it­ing psy­chi­a­trist.

The film is set in 1972 (Bur­ton is a fan of Ham­mer’s Drac­ula AD 1972) and we’re not al­lowed to for­get that fact. Hip­pies hang out in the park. The ladies wear too much pais­ley and eye shadow. Moretz cov­ers her be­d­room wall with posters of Iggy Pop and David Bowie.

In truth, the am­bi­ence is so height­ened that it re­sem­bles a trib­ute to The Ice Storm and That ’70s Show more than it sug­gests a sin­cere at­tempt to sum­mon up the decade. Still, it’s fun for a while. Be­ing gen­er­ous, one can view the hor­ror com­edy – Count Duck­ula meets Carry on Scream­ing – as in­ten­tion­ally broad. Yes, Depp, upon spot­ting The Car­pen­ters on telly, re­ally does rail against that “tiny songstress” con­fined in a magic box.

Sadly, those cheap nov­el­ties quickly wear thin, and the ef­forts to stir in­ter­est in a throw­away ro­mance across the cen­turies falls fa­tally, te­diously flat. Bur­ton des­per­ately needs to find some new ideas.

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