The graveyard shift

Out of his Deppth? Johnny plays a vampire brought back to the world.
Out of his Deppth? Johnny plays a vampire brought back to the world.

Dark Shadows (12A)

Starring: Johnny Depp, Eva Green, Michelle Pfeiffer, Bella Heathcote, Jonny Lee Miller, Chloe Grace Moretz, Gulliver McGrath, Jackie Earle Haley, Helena Bonham Carter.

Director: Tim Burton.

Running time: 113 mins

Quixotic director Tim Burton sealed his creative marriage to Johnny Depp more 20 years ago with the brilliantly dark and twisted fairytale Edward Scissorhands.

Their long and fruitful partnership hits a sticky patch with Dark Shadows, a misfiring fish-out-of-water comedy based on a cult TV series awash with vampires, ghosts and witches.

While the supernatural subject matter and gothic gloom sound perfect for Burton, the script by Seth Grahame-Smith is an unholy mess, stumbling between comedy, action, horror and romance, without any clue how to navigate these shifts in tone.

The director’s imaginative style is strangely muted — even Danny Elfman’s usually infectious score is off-key, continually giving way to a soundtrack of toe-tapping favourites from Donovan, Elton John and Moody Blues.

When The Carpenters trill Top Of The World, we know with a heavy heart that we’re not even close.

In the mid-18th century, Barnabas Collins (Depp) spurns the advances of servant Angelique (Eva Green), who is a witch, and falls in love with Josette DuPres (Bella Heathcote).

In revenge, Angelique kills Josette then transforms the object of her dangerous obsession into a hideous vampire and buries him alive.

Almost 200 years later, construction workers unearth Barnabas’s cast-iron coffin and the fanged fiend is unleashed in swinging 1972.

While Barnabas acclimatises to the groovy customs of the era, he seeks sanctuary at his ancestral home, Collinwood Manor, with the latest branch of the family tree headed by Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer).

Other members of the kooky clan include Elizabeth’s sassy teenage daughter Carolyn (Chloe Grace Moretz), wastrel brother Roger (Jonny Lee Miller) and his 10-year-old son David (Gulliver McGrath).

Eccentric caretaker Willie Loomis (Jackie Earle Haley), psychiatrist Dr Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter) and new governess Victoria (Heathcote again) also wander the Manor’s dark corridors.

Dark Shadows is a morass of disparate, half-formed ideas: the period is lovingly recreated, and there’s some good lines about clash of values “What —15 and not married?’’ and Depp sinks his pearly whites into his role, but most of the cast haven’t enough to do and there’s little we haven’t seen before.

Rating: HHHII