Dark Shadows - Blu-ray Review

'an affable attempt at a friendly Horror film, without the cloying genre-neutral nature of something like Twilight'

For those wanting something different to Tim Burton's usual shtick, it is difficult to find much to recommend in Dark Shadows. A Gothic opus following vampire Barnabus (Johnny Depp) and an assembled set of grizzly family members, this is Burton well within his comfort zone, exploring the fashionable myth of the semi-friendly vampire, amongst kitsch seventies stylisation.

The surprise kicker to this familiar equation is that, this time, Burton's unwillingness to expand his interests has resulted in a surprisingly good film. For once, the devotion to seventies style is justified (its set in, erm, the seventies) and the dark humour fails to intrude on the story as much as it could have done. This is entertaining, mainstream-friendly stuff, an affable attempt at a friendly Horror film, without the cloying genre-neutral nature of something like Twilight.

Burton correctly uses the out-of-his-time nature of Barnabus' transportation to 1972 mainly for scenery setting, plot and background and only occasionally for overt humour. Depp proclaiming the McDonalds' arches to be the 'sign of the devil' is funny, but it only remains as such because we don't have to endure a new joke about the decade every other scene. Instead, Barnabus' arrival is used more for the catalyst of a plot focused on the undying nature of family, love and conflicts, as our hero resumes a running battle with Eva Green's witch, Angelique.

It seems, on this basis, to be particularly harsh to suggest that Dark Shadows has no plot. Barnabus is overtly on a journey of discovery, as his old styles clash and compete with his new aims of traditional values; get a girl, restore his business, reconcile his family. Structured around those three the film builds Green well as an antagonist - it is significant that she has drawn the most plaudits for Dark Shadows - whilst Depp pursues generally positive outcomes with occasionally evil vampiric deeds, broken up by the even more occasional joke.

That Green was praised here is right - she is the straight character in all this and does straight very well - but Depp's twisting lilt for once suits his character, Jackie Earle Haley's caretaker is hilarious and Bella Heathcote makes a strong bid for the mainstream with Vicky, a nanny with a mysterious past.

The less said about Chloë Grace Moretz here though the better. Her script seems to have been written by someone else entirely, composed primarily of awful one-liners and clichéd stabs at 1970s teenage lingo. Her presence though does enable the appearance of one Alice Cooper, a bizarre scene-stealer at the start of the third act.

Dark Shadows is out on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK from Monday 15th October.

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