If there was any doubt that Tim Burton and Johnny Depp needed to stop working with each other and go and sit quietly on their own in a blackened room, then DARK SHADOWS should be the final nail in the coffin. Based loosely on a little-seen 60s TV series, the film sees vampire Barnabus Collins (Depp) rise from the grave after 200 years buried underground, only to be faced by 1970s USA. Determined to reclaim his family seat and return it to its former glory, Collins ingratiates himself into the remnants of the Collins family (Michelle Pfeiffer, Johnny Lee Miller, Chloe Grace Moretz) all the while fearful of Eva Green’s spurned witch, who murdered his lover, cursed him for eternity and is now running the town of Collinsport.

It’s a promising premise, but do not be drawn in by Burton’s penchant for gothic production design and garish small town Americana. Behind this flimsy facade there is nothing of substance to be appreciated. Long gone are the days of BEETLEJUICE, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS and ED WOOD. The characters here are one-dimensional cartoonish approximations, all taking Depp’s lead that when in a Tim Burton film you need little more than an impressive costume and an irritating facial expression to get you through. Helena Bonham Carter is just as guilty as Depp these days and it’s not doing any of them any favours, creatively at least, to keep working together. They have nothing left to give, but while their names continue to prove such an impressive box office draw, the financial incentive is clearly impossible to resist.

DARK SHADOWS quickly eschews any promise that Depp playing a blood-thirsty Nosferatu may have held and devolves into a bizarre mish-mash of THE ADDAMS FAMILY, DEATH BECOMES HER and even a dash of the brilliant CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS, as the community’s rival fish canneries do battle for financial supremacy. A blink and you’ll miss it cameo from Christopher Lee and a baffling performance from Alice Cooper only serve to underscore that this is not a film but a pantomime, a variety performance created solely to bring these beloved “artists” together for their annual romp. Everyone is clearly having fun up on screen, but the audience will quickly realise that they’ve only been invited to foot the bill and the film’s biggest joke is ultimately on them.