2 1/2 out of 4 stars
"Dark Shadows" marks the eighth collaboration between leading man Johnny Depp and director Tim Burton. With the possible exception of "Edward Scissorhands" (their first), none of their films could be considered a classic, but none could be viewed as a stinker either. They have been consistently above-average with their collective shared output.
Based on the daytime soap opera of the same name that ran from 1966 through 1971, "Dark Shadows" retains much of the show's campiness, jettisons most of the melodrama and infuses enough snarky humor to make it above-average.
The best thing (other than Depp) about the film was the decision on the part of Burton and screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith to set it in 1972, the year after the show ended. In addition to providing the costume and set designers with some choice options, it allows the inclusion of primo classic rock and other pop culture references that will strike anyone who was alive at the time as abundantly authentic.
After being turned into a vampire by spurned lover (and witch) Angelique (a blond and quite vicious Eva Green), Barnabas Collins (Depp) is buried alive (or undead, if you will) for almost two centuries. When finally released, Barnabas finds himself very thirsty and in a deep state of culture shock.
With a speech pattern that borders on Shakespearean and a perception of morality that is solidly patrician, Barnabas doesn't quite know how to deal with "modern" technology, unmarried 15-year-old girls or artificial light. He believes the "M" in the McDonald's logo also stands for Mephistopheles and he's sure he digs Black Sabbath and Alice Cooper (who has an extended performance cameo as himself). Barnabas also refers to Alice as the ugliest woman he's ever seen.
While still rooted in unrequited love, the new phase of the relationship between Barnabas and Angelique is centered on their competing Maine fish canneries and her decision to threaten his ancestors. Level-headed matriarch Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer) is keeping the family's castle operating on a shoestring budget. Her teen daughter Carolyn (Chloe Moretz) is an acid-tongued rebel with barely a clue and a deep secret. Brother Roger (Jonny Lee Miller) hardly makes an impression and his son David (Gulliver McGrath) converses with the ghost of his dead mother.
Judging by the movie's final scene, the studio -- likely with Burton and Depp attached -- is probably already planning a sequel and, considering the dovetail narrative possibilities, this makes a lot of financial sense.
All of these possible future plans will be entirely dependant on what takes place at the box office this weekend. If "Dark Shadows" can steal enough dollars away from the juggernaut that is "The Avengers" (about $30 to 40 million), it will happen. If not, it won't. It's that simple. (Warner Bros.)