Murder, music, and monsters happily drenched in blood.
Newly arrived in London, Sweeney Todd (Johnny Depp) sets up his barbering services above the meat pie shop of Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter). Quickly establishing himself as one of the best barbers in the city, Todd lures the influential Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman) into his chair but just as quickly misses his opportunity to exact revenge upon the judge for a previous wrong. To bide his time until the opportunity presents itself again, Mr. Todd enters into a dark bargain with Mrs. Lovett. Once the secrets of the past begin to unravel, however, it won’t be only innocent blood spilling into the sewers of London.
Based on the hit Broadway musical, Tim Burton directs familiar players Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter as the infamous Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett. The preview and poster advertising show the film oozing with Burton’s dark visions while cautiously skipping over the fact that people will in actually be singing… and very well, in fact. Horror buffs may be initially taken aback by the melodious sounds but can certainly get on board listening to two sociopaths musing about who would make a better meat pie (vicars or poets, anyone?) Sadly, this film will have to actually lure theater buffs into a bloody musical to sell this film, but that never seemed to be a problem on Broadway.
Expect the typical Burton-esque Victorian wasteland of wet blacks and grays, colored only when blood is flowing or someone truly too full of themselves must be shown in as bright of colors as possible (Sacha Baron Cohen’s rival barber is one such example). Musically, the lyrics are what make the songs entertaining as the tunes themselves sound as if they could have been lifted arrangements and all from any 1980’s animated Disney flick. Even Johnny Depp, not one well known for his vocals musically, avoids sounding like a strangled cat, so while no one will be expecting Michael Crawford crooning from the shadows, neither does any singing voice detract from the overall production.
Finally, there’s the blood. A lot of it. And not just quick slit throats, mind you, but thick, meaty necks being hacked into followed by the cold, wet sound of bodies being dropped on their heads into a brick floor. It’s more horrific and gratuitously graphic than anything Tim Burton has ever done before, not to mention being set to music that makes so light of these murderous acts that you can’t help but laugh while feeling genuinely guilty about it. Whether a commercial success or failure, this one will go down as a cult classic, and I for one cannot wait for the DVD of this to come out.
(a three and a half skull recommendation out of four)