Watching the trailer for director Tim Burton's latest film Dark Shadows, one might infer that the movie is a raunchy sex comedy that derives the majority of its jokes either from the concept of supernatural copulation or the inevitable culture shock that comes from being reintroduced to the world after a two century-long absence. Fortunately, the movie is not as one-dimensional as the advertising made it sound. The mixture of supernatural tropes into the comedy genre creates a distinctive campiness reminiscent of the '60s TV show the film is based from the same name, and Burton manages to use this to his advantage.
Dark Shadows is a textbook example of Burton's easily recognizable style: quirky characters with pale faces and dark, sunken eyes traipse about gloomy, expressionist sets. The casting of Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter are also quite unsurprising, and the prominence of vampires, witches, ghosts and other supernatural beings make it apparent that Burton is in his element. Fans of the filmmaker will not be disappointed.
Since the movie is based on an old TV drama, it features a large cast of the same eccentric characters. Most of these are members of the Collins family, descendants of Depp's chracter, an immortal vampire named Barnabas. The Collins, along with several other individuals employed by the family, live in a mansion where the movie is set. The mansion's residents, as well as the villain of the film, a witch named Angelique (Eva Green), are all given interesting characterizations and backstories. However, this becomes the film's main weakness. Characters introduced throughout Dark Shadows are given a few lines of dialogue and are then promptly forgotten about for the majority of the movie. When they return, the result is rather anticlimactic, if anything. It feels like there is something missing from the subplots, and many of the characters simply do not have enough screen time to invest in them. The movie spreads itself too thin, and by doing so, weakens its overall impact.
That being said, Dark Shadows still manages to be entertaining by virtue of the talented cast and the amusing situations that are brought about by an immortal vampire living in the '70s. The movie clips along at a good pace, though with the numerous subplots it sometimes loses direction. Then again, the direction is never very clear in the first place. Perhaps this is for the best, as it keeps the audience engaged as they try to guess where the plot will take them next.
As another addition to the ocean of vampire-themed media, Dark Shadows will not rouse major emotion. However, if you enjoy spooky supernatural comedies you will likely find it enjoyable.