There was a time when a new Tim Burton film was something to get unreservedly excited about – a rewarding journey into the richly imaginative and fertile mind of a master purveyor of adult fairy tales and a true auteur of fantasy. However, in recent years, the quality of his work has become so unpredictable that going to see one of his films has become the cinematic equivalent of trick or treat, and not just due to his penchant for horror and fancy dress. Treats such as Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood and Big Fish were interspersed by the tediously tiresome trickery of Planet of the Apes, Alice in Wonderland, Sweeney Todd and any Batman incarnation you care to mention. Unfortunately, most of these disappointments have occurred quite recently, leading to the worrying conclusion that Burton’s razor-sharp edge may have been blunted for good.
Enter Dark Shadows, offering only more rusty nails for Burton’s once titillating coffins. Based on a gothic soap opera that originally aired on ABC from 1966 to 1971, this hugely groundbreaking series featured man-made monsters, werewolves, zombies, witches, warlocks, time travel, and a parallel universe. On paper therefore, this source material would appear to be right up Burton’s darkly-lit street: a depraved, gothic, twilight-blue setting, a plethora of emotionally twisted and scarred characters, a structure that favours mood and spectacle over plot, and once again and again and again, a pair of plum roles for both his favourite acting partner Depp and bed partner Bonham Carter.