Dark Shadows (12A)

Tim Burton, 113mins. Starring: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter

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The Independent Culture

Tim Burton needs Johnny Depp more than ever these days. This big-screen revisiting of a cult TV show from the 1960s, largely unknown over here, is beset with Burton's familiar faults - overproduced and underwritten, it labours through swathes of gothic mystery without seeming to know if it should scare us to death or make us bust out laughing. In the end, it barely does either.

Depp plays Barnabas Collins, a vampire exhumed 200 years after his burial and returning to his family mansion on the Maine coast. It's 1972, and the Collins estate, now close to collapse, is still under the ancient curse of Angelique (Eva Green), the witch who first turned Barnabas into a bloodsucker.

But the arrival of a new governess Victoria (Bella Heathcote) recalls his former amour and offers him a hope of redemption. Most of the comedy derives from the vampire's startled reaction to modernity – television and pop music being the obvious things, though there's a passing dig at the golden M of McDonald's, which Barnabas believes to represent Mephistopheles. Depp's old-world locutions ("That was a regrettable turn of events") and his trademark eye-widening are the only reward for slogging through what's really an awful mess.

Burton doesn't so much tell a story as lurch from one set-piece to another, with little care for the linking material. By the end, he's sought refuge in a familiar farrago of digimated effects and demented Grand Guignol. Hair and make-up have worked overtime, as they usually do on a Burton movie, but they're inadequate cover for this slender and ill-conceived project.