Delve into the costume closet of Johnny Depp (probably a wild place to be), and you’ll find a cape and fangs hanging on the back wall: Barnabas Collins, the bloodsucking potentate of TV’s soapy Dark Shadows, was, Depp claims, a role model.
For those of you whose supernatural show-watching begins and ends with Buffy, don’t sulk. Director Tim Burton knows you had to be there: his big-screen adaptation, more a fish-out-of-water comedy than a melodrama, feels closer to the wider camp phenomenon of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, fused with the filmmaker’s familiar brand of cosy suburban horror. Anybody who vociferously complains about this – or a movie in which our baffled hero, unearthed in 1972, calls a lava lamp a ‘pulsating blood urn’ – is determined to have no stake in the fun on offer here.
Filled to bursting with voracious stares and high collars (and even an Alice Cooper cameo), Dark Shadows struts its glam harder than any film since Velvet Goldmine – again, a good thing. Just as we’re getting used to Depp’s lovelorn vamp attempting a resuscitation of the family cannery business, along comes Eva Green’s sex-on-wheels succubus, poured into a Bacall slouch, to kick the movie into overdrive.
Burton, as usual, is great on atmosphere and comic timing (these are his weirdest moments since Ed Wood), but less so at reining in an overcomplicated plot and dimly lit action scenes. You sense the project was forced into a high-octane summer mould; it’ll probably serve nicely as background to your Halloween bash.