Tim Burton and Johnny Depp’s gothic remake Dark Shadows – what the reviews are saying

Could an uninspiring script and hollow central performance spell the end for Depp and Burton's creative partnership?

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Tim Burton and Johnny Depp team up for their eighth venture with a helping hand from Helena Bonham Carter, Michelle Pfeiffer and cameo Alice Cooper, in this remake of a cult US TV show that never found its following across the pond.

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The premise: Depp plays Barnabas Collins, a vampire buried alive after spurning the love of young witch Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green) and released from his tomb 200 years later in 1972.

Burton’s money-spinning formula remains much the same, so how have the critics reviewed the latest Depp-Burton offering? Have the gothic duo resurrected their once-golden partnership after a recent string of uninspiring collaborations?

Alan Jones for Radio Times
writes, “Burton’s style is a visual treat” but adds that “in trying to
capture the cult TV show’s blend of eccentric comedy and full-blooded
melodrama, the film’s sense of madcap fun is often left high and dry.”

Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian says: “It whelms you. Its effect is whelming. The film delivers precisely the satisfaction a sympathetic audience could expect from its director, not one degree above or below.” He adds, “Burton’s style is now beginning to look very familiar; he has built his brand to perfection in the film marketplace, and it is smarter and more distinctive than a lot of what is on offer at the multiplex, but there are no surprises. There are shadows, but they conceal nothing.”

Anthony Quinn in The Independent gives it two stars and labels the film “overproduced and underwritten”. “It labours through swathes of gothic mystery without seeming to know if it should scare us to death or make us burst out laughing. In the end, it barely does either.” Overall he admits, “hair and make-up have worked overtime, as they usually do on a Burton movie, but they’re inadequate cover for this slender and ill-conceived project.”

The Telegraph’s Robbie Collins writes, “Dark Shadows lacks a coherent story, engaging characters, ideas, charm, wit and purpose,” before adding that Depp acts “like a kind of gothic Austin Powers in various meaningless skits, as he struggles to adapt to a world of Cadillacs and ceramic pineapples.”

Chris Tookey gives the film one star in the Daily Mail, pinpointing Depp as an “inert, complacent and ultimately lifeless hole at the centre of the movie.” His commendations are offered to designer Rich Heinrich and cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel’s “wonderfully daunting and impressive” gothic mansion but he slams a “woefully organised screenplay that doesn’t give the talented actors nearly enough to do.”

And finally Kate Muir in The Times declares, “Tim Burton’s usually reliable Gothic potion goes peculiarly wrong… the black eyeliner and white make-up are showing cracks”.

But can the pair that once scaled box-office heights with Edward Scissorhands, Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland continue to prosper together after this movie?

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Robbie Collins hints that for Tim Burton’s cult following, this film “may be the one that finally breaks his fans’ patience”.