Sporting spindly fingers à la 1922’s Nosferatu, Johnny Depp’s 18th-century vampire character of Barnabas Collins rises from the grave in 1972 where he’s puzzled by the high-tech times of television sets and breakfast waffles. He settles in with his descendants at their dreary Collinwood mansion, headed by matriarch Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer, who gets lovelier each year) and her sniveling brother, Roger (Jonny Lee Miller, TV’s Elementary).
Interrupting this arrangement is the re-arrival of Angelique Bouchard (a sublime and scorching Eva Green, TV’s Camelot), the witch who cursed Barnabas centuries ago. She still hasn’t gotten over his spurning her, and aims to take him down, along with his clan and the entire town, if need be.
While anachronistic humor can be as lazy as pot humor, there’s something about seeing Depp waxing rhapsodic over Erich Segal’s Love Story that tickles just the right spot. Burton uses such era-iconic tunes as Percy Faith’s “Theme from A Summer Place” and The Carpenters’ “Top of the World” to coat cheeriness on his visually macabre material. The overall effect is not scares, but smiles.
Such an approach may enrage fervent fans of the series, but the show is so dated and of its time that it would not translate to current mainstream tastes. To put it bluntly, the masses would be bored stiff by yesteryear’s Shadows. But if they can overlook a few too many subplots that lead nowhere, they can enjoy today’s version. The more who do on Blu-ray and DVD, the better its reputation will get. —Rod Lott