I remember all too well running home from school to catch Jonathan Frid as Barnabas Collins in the original vampire soap Dark Shadows. All my girl friends and I had a thing for him, the Edward or Jacob (or Lestat or Angel or Bill…) of our era. That he was not really handsome in any sense is beside the point. There was something very attractive, dare I say sexy, about that immortal blood sucker. So having Johnny Depp (who I’d pay to watch reading a phone book) play Barnabas in this new Tim Burton version should make it even better, right?

Dark Shadows has that typical Tim Burton patina, all dark but over the top at the same time. All the characters are pretty two dimensional, which is somewhat expect given the source material. And since it is set in 1972, there are all kinds of opportunities for retro clothing and a best-of soundtrack. The film picks up as Barnabas who has been turned into a vampire by jealous witch Angelique (Eva Green) and then buried for a couple of hundred years is dug up by a construction crew and returns to the Collins family, which has not fared well over the past two centuries. But he is there to make it right, restore the family and their manor to their former glory and exact revenge on Angelique who killed his true love, made him immortal and has taken over the local fishing industry that his family used to rule.

The down at the heels Collins family is now headed by Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer), who has hired a live-in psychiatrist (Helena Bonham Carter) to deal with her nephew who sees his dead mother around the place. Needless to say, accepting that their long dead ancestor has come back takes a bit of time, with a lot of silly misunderstandings about new technologies and the modern world, but then Barnabas is essentially a vampire Mary Poppins, helping the family get themselves together, restoring the mansion thanks to a secret room full of booty no one discovered these past two centuries, and coming to terms with the strange things that have been happening around town for all these years. It also just so happens that the new nanny is a dead ringer for his lost love Josette (Bella Heathcote).

The Original Barnabas Collins -- Jonathan Frid (1924-2012)   RIPSadly, Dark Shadows doesn’t break new ground in the vampire comedy genre, even though Johnny Depp delivers another of his fun performances. It is entertaining enough, but not one of those comedies I can see wanting to see again. I felt like the previews were campier than the film I saw, but for fans of vampires, the original Dark Shadows or Johnny Depp, it delivers a diverting trip down memory lane without too much violence (very little blood sucking), though with more sex than younger kids would probably be allowed to see. It is rated PG-13. With the big summer blockbusters upon us, this is painless alternative viewing, though it would probably be just as much fun on DVD later.



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