If the early summer heat has you steamed, head to the local cinema to see “Dark Shadows,” a chillingly fun gothic tale of vampires, witches, and werewolves. Directed by the eerily creative Tim Burton and starring the darkly seductive Johnny Depp, “Dark Shadows” pays homage to its predecessor, the Dark Shadows TV series (1966-1971).
In the updated 2012 version, Burton has turned down the volume on that Burtonesque tone that’s made him famous. It’s still there in Depps’s gothic look, but this Burton film pulls the cast of characters to the forefront in that dance of the macabre. Their circumstances create more laughs than gasps, and the darkly funny business works.
Depp brings a boyish charm to his portray of Barnabas Collins. After two centuries of being chained in a coffin, turned into a vampire, and suffering the curse of Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green), Collins emerges to suck the blood from the eleven construction workers who dug him up.
Now fully restored, he makes his way to the family mansion, which is now inhabited by his descendants. A strange lot on their own, they become even stranger with Barnabas in their midst. In scenes laced with the humor of Barnabas trying to make sense of modern life, he takes the lady of the house Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer) into his confidence.
A witch scorned is a dangerous thing, and Angelique has plagued the Collins family for all time. She has wrecked havoc not only by killing Barnabas’s parents, turning him into a vampire, and his niece Carolyn (Chloe Graze Morez) into a werewolf, but she has also lured to her death Josette (Bella Heathcote (also playing Victoria), the woman Barnabas really loves.
Barnabas must restore the family fortune and overcome Angelique, now a newly incarnated local businesswoman. Will he be able to do it? Can he overcome the insidious meddling of the in-house psychiatrist Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter)? Who is the spirit following young David Collins (Gulliver McGrath), and why does she look so much like the new nanny Victoria?
“Dark Shadows” may not measure up for cult members of the original show, but for the rest of us, it’s a nice way to feel the shivers and, occasionally, laugh out loud.
Rated PG-13 for comic horror violence, sexual content, some drug use, language and smoking.