By now, the pairing of Johnny Depp and director Tim Burton feels as comfy as an old pair of slippers - and a silky cravat for added olde worlde effect. In their latest collaboration Dark Shadows they resurrect an old US TV show about a centuries-old vampire adjusting to life in 1972. It isn't their best work and it pales next to The Addams Family, but Depp fans will enjoy another batty performance.
Barnabas Collins (Depp) hails from an old family of shipbuilders and, in the 18th century, has the world at his feet when wicked witch Angelique (Eva Green) descends upon the family pile at Collinsport and lustfully sinks her hooks into him. Soon after that, he's sinking his fangs into every nubile girl he can lay his hands on, cursed by Angelique because he fell in love with another woman.
That's the grim fairytale section wrapped up in the first ten minutes, then the mood shifts as Barnabas is disturbed in the coffin where Angelique left him. From here, it's a wryly amusing fish-out-of-water comedy with Barnabas delivering florid expressions of befuddlement at such exotic things as lava lamps, tarmac and Karen Carpenter TV specials. He's quite sure this is the devil's work.
Despite his own bloodstained collar, Barnabas is welcomed back into the family home by matriarch Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer) who reveals that Angelique still lives in town and practically owns it too, as a successful rival to their business. It's a straight, somewhat thankless role for Pfeiffer and curiously, Burton doesn't exploit the chance to pit the two alpha-females against each other.
Instead, there's a lot of friction between Barnabas and Angelique, including a brilliantly funny sex scene that has them literally climbing the walls. He's a traditional English gent - and that's what makes him so alluring - but he also has a weakness for witchy flesh. Even so, he's keen not to let this spoil his courtship of the nanny (Bella Heathcote) who looks uncannily like his first love.
Alas, the romantic triangle doesn't hold much water, partly because Heathcote looks alarmingly young next to the leading man. In fact, their intimate scenes provide the only genuinely creepy moments in the film. Helena Bonham Carter brings a sharper edge in her role as doctor of the house who becomes obsessed with the idea of eternal youth, but this subplot quickly hits a wall.
Regardless of the title, this is a light and psychedelically colourful family portrait that also includes a moody teenager well played with a permanent look of disgust by Chloe Moretz and Johnny Lee Miller in a self-effacing turn as Elizabeth's spineless hubbie. Jackie Earle Haley also has a few shining moments as a handyman and henchman to Barnabas. Still, there's no doubting who the star is. Depp could play this role in his sleep and in a way, he does. But still, he's the life and soul of the party.
Photo gallery - Dark Shadows UK premiere in pictures: