05/11/2012 05:03 pm ET Updated Jul 11, 2012

Review: Dark Shadows Irritates

Oh, Barnabus! Wherefore art thou, Johnny Depp? Chaos, confusion and irritation best describe this forced gothic nightmare, based on the vampire soap opera from 1966. One minute you are terrified. The next, you are laughing and then again, terrified. Finally with a crashing thud, as you watch thundering waves dash onto the cliffs, you realize you are bored. You feel emotionally manipulated, because you have been by the juxtaposition of comedy and drama yanking your chain. This film, directed by Tim Burton and co-produced by Depp and Richard Zanuck, lacks consistency and focus. Long, it is so long you wish you had brought your cell phone into the theater. And, oh yes, the makeup and sets by John Bush and costumes by Colleen Atwood are over the top fab, but these splendid special effects cannot make up for a tedious script by Seth Grahame-Smith and story by John August, which drags and milks each moment like the vampire's last taste.

In 1752, the rich powerful playboy Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) rejects Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green), who is a witch and in love with him. To seek revenge, she kills the young girl he loves, then turns him into a vampire and buries him alive for 200 years. The early sets glow in macabre midnight blues to signify the sinister if-I-don't-have-you-laughing-I-could-kill- you spirit of this film.

In 1972, former playboy Collins awakens in Collinsport, Maine, chained inside a coffin. (One wonders if metaphorically this signifies the Depp/Burton relationship.) In need of sustenance, Barnabas sucks the blood of nearby victims, then makes his way to Collinwood Manor where he meets the continually youthful beauty, Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer), who is the mistress of the manor.

At the first dinner, a guest asks, "Do you think the sexes should be equal?"

"Heavens no! Then the men would be unmanageable," Victoria, the governess, replies.

Barnabas is shocked at the dilapidated condition of his once grand estate and vows to Elizabeth to restore her mansion to its glory if she keeps his secret that he is a vampire. Barnabas proves to Elizabeth that he is, indeed, the former playboy Barnabas from 200 years ago by showing her a secret passage in the manor that leads to a hidden treasure. Elizabeth had no idea these riches were on her estate and realizes Barnabas is a vampire.

The dysfunctional members of the Collins family are rolled out to Barnabas and include Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter), Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcot), Caroline Stoddard (Chloe Grace Moritz) Roger Collins (Johnny Miller), David Collins (Gulliver McGrath), Joshua Collins (Ivan Kay), and Naomi Collins (Susanna Capellaro).

When Elizabeth offers to show the Collins Cannery on Angel Bay to Barnabas, who has not made the adjustment from 1752, he says, "Would someone fetch the horses?"

"We don't have horses, we have a Chevy," Elizabeth replies with her signature deadpan expression.

A quickie interlude of oral sex with Barnabas occurs when he is seduced by Dr. Hoffman, who is secretly draining Barnabas' blood for her own hidden stash. Just in case. One never knows, when hanging out with vampires, should the need arise for her own fix.

Barnabas restores the Collins' fishing business on Angel Bay and takes it away from being under the spell of the witchcraft of his old nemesis, Angelique Bouchard, who has been stealing the rightful profits belonging to the Collins. In a charming cameo, Clarney (Christoper Lee) plays the Captain who works for Angelique until Barnabas hypnotizes him to work for Barnabas and the Collins.

Alice Cooper makes a brief but exciting appearance at a 'happening' given by the Collins' and Barnabas refers to Alice as 'she.' This gets a laugh once, but the second time , the joke dies along with the film. Super Fly and The Carpenters soundtracks give a 1972 time and place and work.

Mayhem ensues and terror and comedy reign until you start to look for the exit. Fun was had for the first half, then this film falls off a cliff like Barnabas's first love.

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