Delve into the costume closet of Johnny Depp (probably a wild place to be) and you’ll find a cape and fangs hanging on the back wall: Barnabas Collins, the bloodsucking potentate of TV’s soapy Dark Shadows, was, Depp claims, a role model. For those of you whose supernatural show-watching begins and ends at Buffy, don’t sulk. Director Tim Burton knows you had to be there: His big-screen adaptation, more a fish-out-of-water comedy than a melodrama, feels closer to the wider camp phenomenon of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, as well as the filmmaker’s cozy brand of suburban horror. Anybody who vociferously complains about this—or a movie in which our baffled hero, unearthed in 1972, calls a lava lamp a “pulsating blood urn”—is determined to stake out no fun.
Filled to bursting with voracious stares and high collars (and even an Alice Cooper cameo), Dark Shadows struts its glam harder than any film since Velvet Goldmine—again, a good thing. Just as we’re getting used to Depp’s lovelorn vamp, attempting a resuscitation of the family cannery business, along comes Eva Green’s sex-on-wheels succubus, poured into a Bacall slouch, to kick the movie into overdrive. Burton, as usual, is great on atmosphere and comic timing (these are his weirdest moments since Ed Wood), but less so at reining in an overcomplicated plot and dimly lit action scenes. You sense the project was forced into a high-octane summer mold; it’ll probably serve nicely as background for your Halloween bash.
Follow Joshua Rothkopf on Twitter: @joshrothkopf
Read our interview with Eva Green