If you still weren't convinced that Tim Burton was The King Of Kooky with all his previous efforts, then be prepared for the latest slice of "weird" as he, along with long term partners Depp and Bonham Carter, show you how to do American 60's soap opera... replete with vampires and witches. Naturally!
From the get-go, unlike his recent Alice In Wonderland, you know you are in the hands (and God help you, mind) of Tim. Everything the camera glides past - which happens ALOT here - is distinctly Burton-esque. The towns - Liverpool, all "smelling of urine" and of course the home for the bulk of the film, Collinsport - scream out a mixture of his Sleepy Hollow and Edward Scissorhands. And of course, the stately home of the characters - Collingswood itself - has flashes of Beetlejuice and Corpse Bride splattered amongst its lamp-lit rooms and ornate decor.
However, a Burton film wouldn't be a Burton film on visual impact alone (take note Mr. Bruckheimer!) Quirky characters, idiotic individuals, delirious dialogue and Depp doing "devilishly delicious dude" are what audiences demand and expect from their time in the company of the two filmatic friends. Here, Depp, channels Oldman's Bram Stoker's Dracula with elongated hand gestures mixed with his own Captain Jack Sparrow with raised eyebrows and quizzical/bemused looks at such things as concrete roads and the knowledge that horses are not the preferred mode of transport anymore, but something called a "chevy." Alot of the humour is derived from the Back To The Future "fish out of water" scenario - Depp's Barnabus Collins mistaking the McDonald's logo as a sign of the devil; lava lamps as a vessel for pulsating blood; young girls sitting on a sofa late in the evening as a prostitute and of course The Carpenter's singing on the TV as a "tiny songstress." Some of these moments have made it to the trailer, but note, the actual film is not a full-on, laugh-out-loud fest that it looks to be be. This is more along the lines of bizarre and bemusing like his earlier works than what the trailer hints at with a change in style and direction for him - his studio-interfered Planet Of The Apes showed that Burton should stick to what he does best. And here with his Dark Shadows, he mostly does.
It is a surprise that the OTT scenarios that occur frequently in the land of soap operas hasn't drawn Burton in until now. He seems perfectly matched for the issues of unrequited love, pent-up desire and absurd left-of-field twists that they throw out on a weekly basis. Obviously, these are dressed up to match the big screen and heightened state of drama queen that is called for to keep the attention for 2 hours straight - the pent-up desire results in a much more aerobatic display of sex than the infamously hilarious The Tall Guy sequence and the battle of businesses between Green's witch and Depp's vampire is depicted in a movie montage backed by all the great songs from the 70's which then results in a stand-off finale which moves into Death Becomes Her territory rather than Dynasty cat-fight.
Beautiful touches are strewn throughout the film - the oldest cleaning lady in the history of cinema who will clean anything in her slow but methodical way, even Depp's face when it's covered in Green's bile; a 1700's vampire trying to find a comfortable place to sleep in a 1970's world (cardboard boxes, closets, the roof of a four-poster bed-frame); Barnabus referring to Alice Cooper as a "hideous female" time-and-time-again - these moments interspersed with Pfeiffer in fine Stardust meets The Witches Of Eastwick mode, Bonham Carter in true Bonham Carter mode and Green beating her sexy tour-de-force appearance role in Casino Royale, all add up to a fun mix of kooky and quirky that you would expect but not the giggle-fest that the trailer suggested. Upon leaving the cinema, you'll find yourself liking it alot more than when you were watching it - just like Depp himself, Dark Shadows grows on you the more you think about it/experience it. Groovy.
UK release date: 11.05.12