Tim Burton, the American Gothic director of “Beetlejuice” and “Edward Scissorhands,” isn’t just the obvious choice to adapt Ransom Riggs’ macabre young-adult novel, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.” Burton’s overall aesthetic — a combination of Walt Disney and Edgar Allan Poe — arguably paved the way for dark YA fare like “Miss Peregrine,” “Lemony Snicket” and “The Spiderwick Chronicles.” Burton’s version of Riggs’ book, about children with alarming mutations and superpowers, is about what you’d expect: a tween-friendly version of Tod Browning’s shock-horror classic, “Freaks.”

The movie’s PG-13 rating is not an overestimation. Early in the film, Jake (Asa Butterfield), a shy teenager in suburban Florida, discovers his grandfather Abe (Terence Stamp) half-dead and missing his eyes. Abe’s dying-breath instructions will lead Jake (and his clueless father, played by Chris O’Dowd) to a fog-enshrouded island in Wales. So far, so good: We’re basically in a Universal horror movie updated for today’s young viewers.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

On the island, Jake discovers that Abe’s old bedtime stories about a fantastical orphanage were true, because all his classmates are here, alive and somehow unchanged. Pretty young Emma (Ella Purnell) still floats above the ground, Enoch (Finlay MacMillan) can still bring inanimate figurines to life, Millard (Cameron King) is still invisible, and so on. They all still live under the wing of no-nonsense headmistress Miss Peregrine (Eva Green, not on screen nearly enough). And here, right when the story gets under way, the movie runs into trouble.

“Miss Peregrine” gets bogged down in an extremely convoluted plot involving a time loop, the mad scientist Barron (a snarky Samuel L. Jackson), another headmistress named Miss Avocet (Judi Dench, briefly) and an army of eye-sucking monsters called Hollows (short for Holocaust, a potentially profound metaphor that the movie quickly abandons). The action is difficult to follow and therefore less than gripping, and Burton’s climactic battle sequence (at a carnival, where else?) goes for a cute, lighthearted tone that undermines the previous two ghoulish hours.

In the end, bizarre characters and a creepy-funny atmosphere are all “Miss Peregrine” has to offer. That doesn’t add up to a satisfying movie, even one by a stylist as distinctive as Burton.