“Dark Shadows” is the eighth pairing of director Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, and the bloom, if not quite off the rose, is fading fast. Taking off from the cult-fave TV soap that ran from 1966 to 1971, the movie isn’t bad, exactly, just blah. The coming attractions set me up for a satirical goof, but, as it turns out, that trailer is misleading. Most of the film is a not-quite-scary and not-all-that-funny mélange.
Depp plays Barnabas Collins, master of Collinswood Mansion in seaside Maine, to which he returns after being transformed into a vampire and buried alive by the vengeful witch Angelique (Eva Green) back in the halcyon days of 1795. The current Collinswood clan, circa 1972, is led by matriarch Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer) and includes a resident child psychiatrist (Helena Bonham Carter) with ginger hair and the pallid skin that is standard in all Burton movies. Barnabas, with his fangs and eye shadow, fits right in.
The film is best when it focuses on Barnabas’s culture shocks in this brave new world. Depp has fun with the character’s bafflements without camping it up. What’s missing overall is the sense of fun Burton once evinced in films like “Beetlejuice.” Or, if not that, then more of the doomy grandeur of, say, “Batman.” The middle road of “Dark Shadows” leads nowhere. Grade: C+ (Rated PG-13 for comic horror violence, sexual content, some drug use, language and smoking.)