Movie: "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"
Year: 2007
Rated: R
Genre: Horror
Directed by: Tim Burton
Writing credits: John Logan, Stephen Sondheim, Hugh Wheeler, Christopher Bond

Reviewer: Max Burbank
Posted: 1/28/2008

Plot: Escaping after years in exile for a crime he did not commit, Benjamin Barker A.K.A Sweeney Todd, returns to London to find his wife a long dead suicide and his daughter the ward of the very Judge who knowingly sent him away. With the help of Mrs. Lovett, his downstairs neighbor, who owns and operates the ‘worst pie shop in London’ what begins as a quest for revenge soon becomes a murderous free for all. Believing everyone deserves a violent death, Todd slits his customers throats, dumps them down a chute to the basement kitchen, where Mrs. Lovett grinds them up to fill her suddenly popular meat pies.

Review: When I was thirteen, I wanted nothing more than to be a Broadway musical star. Like a kidney stone, the desire passed. For anyone thinking to give this movie a pass because it’s a musical, trust me, this isn’t ‘Cats’.

In 1979 Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler adapted Christopher Bond’s ‘73 play based on the classic English pulp horror tale “The String of Pearls” and had a hit, drenching the Great White Way in crimson blood and black comedy. Tim Burton may have sliced the running time buy cutting songs, but he made up for it with far more graphic violence and rivers of bright red blood.

Johnny Depp is only a decent singer and he’s the best in the cast, but I promise you this won’t even cross your mind unless after watching the film you put on headphones and compare the soundtrack with the Broadway original cast album. The film is a battle for supremacy between Depp’s masterful performance and Burton’s vision of Victorian London, a vast black, white and gray sewer brightened sporadically by gouts of blood. That’s not to say the rest of the cast aren’t good. Helena Bonham Carter (Mrs. Lovett), Alan Rickman (Judge Turpin) and Sacha Baron Cohen (Faux Italian barber extraordinaire, Pirelli) are all favorites of mine and turn in fine performances, but they pale beside Depp’a brooding, seething, fermenting, murderous rage. Timothy Spall comes closer to Depp’s level than any of his more well-known cast mates as the amazingly repulsive Beadle.

I suppose of you’re a fan of the ‘Saw’ or ‘Hostel’ franchises you won’t be impressed by the gore or violence of this film, but it’s a good deal more than the casual moviegoer is used to and while some of the murders are staged for a macabre beauty others are grimly visceral. And while it’s violent and tragic on a Greek scale, it’s also hilarious. Casual brutal murder and cannibalism set to song and dance lead to a great deal of uncomfortable nervous laughter. Horror and comedy, seemingly at odds, can make a heady mix, something most horror fans already know, but in this film a terrible, unrelenting sadness adds something altogether new to the table. It’s repulsive, but undeniably delicious.

Overall rating: WholeWholeWholeWholeHalf
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)

Reader Comments

Suicidal Chipmunk
Jan 28th, 2008, 04:20 PM
WOOT!!! first comment

This movie sounded pretty good when i heard about it... never got around to watching it though
Built in the 80s
Jan 28th, 2008, 04:29 PM
I'm probably going to be the only one to say this, but i think Johnny Depp is overrated. I liked him better pre-Pirates, when he wasn't such a huge star.
Jan 28th, 2008, 05:42 PM
My parents got tickets to this play when I was about 8 years old. We had no idea what it was about as my dads boss sprang the tickets on him. So as a family, we went. I remember my mom reading the words on the play bill "the demon barber of fleet street" aloud in wonder as the lights dimmed and the curtain raised. I still am afraid to go anywhere near this movie. If you want true horror, this is your story.
<me|yourmom> = you
Jan 28th, 2008, 06:09 PM
I agree. This movie was definitely not the best musical Depp's done.
Pickled Patriarch
Jan 28th, 2008, 06:14 PM
Let us never forget that Freddy Krueger slashed up Johnny Depp with his blades long before Sweeney Todd set up shop.
The Magnificent Bastard
Jan 28th, 2008, 08:31 PM

Seriously, this is the best movie I've actually seen in theaters, since Pan's Labyrinth.

Anyway, I also recommend the Broadway cast recording that Max mentioned. The music is even great (and twisted) on it's own.
Forum Virgin
Jan 28th, 2008, 08:39 PM
I love the show and I really want to see this movie but the only place it's playing is 10 bucks for a matinee (I usually pay 8 for night tickets). I got the cd and was disappointed, not by the singing which was good but by the lack of songs, he cut Little Priest in half and that's a shame.
Forum Virgin
Jan 29th, 2008, 12:05 AM
I actually have Sweeny Todd on film. Not this one, but rather a broadway production of it. Lady Angela Lansbury is Mrs. Lovette, and George Hearn (Don't worry, I don't know him either.) is Sweeny...

Good stuff.
Jan 29th, 2008, 12:43 AM
It's like a musical Texas Chainsaw massacre! And it's every bit as good as it sounds. I enjoyed it mightily.
The Goddamned Batman
Jan 29th, 2008, 12:43 AM
Okay, so some of my friends think I'm weird for this, but am I alone in thinking that Helena Bonham Carter looked HOT AS FUCK in this movie?

i like crazy hair
Jan 29th, 2008, 01:04 AM
You're not alone, Proto. ;(
Emu Emu is offline
Level 29 ♂
Jan 29th, 2008, 12:07 PM
I didn't like the movie but the play seems like it would be better :o
Jan 29th, 2008, 01:18 PM
I've seen and heard my fair share and it seems to me that many Broadway musicals could only be improved with the Tim Burton treatment.
Forum Chaos Lord
Jan 29th, 2008, 03:17 PM
Nay, Proto. It's not just you.
Bane of Zombies
Jan 29th, 2008, 04:00 PM
I haven't had the time to see the movie yet, but serial killings AND cannibalism? I haven't been this excited scince "Silence of the Lambs"!
Fookin' up planets!
Jan 29th, 2008, 08:40 PM
I wanted to like this movie but just felt let down.
They should do an Edward Scissor hands horror film.
Jan 30th, 2008, 06:10 AM
I loved Johnny pre-pirate movies, they really ruined him in my books, but I still turn out to very movie he puts out like a damn hamster going back to his water pump, as well I have nothing bad to say about Tim Burton, but some of his work is very average, Corpse Bride for one, C and the C factory another, just not as big of a fan as I once was of this dynamic duo I fear
Jan 30th, 2008, 04:01 PM
Tim Burton will never be able to top Edward Scissorhands. It had Vincent Price.
From the Home of MST3K
Jan 30th, 2008, 04:02 PM
I didn't get into this, but I think that's more because I'm not a Burton fan. I've seen other Sweeney interpretations (I even got to see a Sweeney live performance once) and I think that Depp did a good job here, but I think they could have done better overall.

I think Burton's problem is that no one is willing to tell him "no" or otherwise correct him when it comes to story, scene and setting. A lot of big name directors have this problem these days, and what with no one to point out they need to change or re-do something so that it's their best work, we end up with a lot of less-than-optimal things.
The Moxie Nerve Food Tonic
Jan 30th, 2008, 04:22 PM
I'm still down with Johnny D. As for Burton, I generally like him but he's not infallable. I thought 'Sweeney' was a great outing, but I thought Charley was spotty. There were parts I really liked, but I thought the ending was forced and horrible.
Jan 30th, 2008, 08:10 PM
I saw this just because of Depp. There was only one instance during the whole movie where I thought "hey! this is the Jack Sparrow guy!"

Plus there's a whole song that's in favor of cannibalism. You don't see that alot these days in Hollywood.

I particularly liked the ending alot.
Forum Virgin
Jan 31st, 2008, 04:47 PM
i am so mad because our stupid redneck town won't get it for our theater
Feb 26th, 2009, 05:04 PM
"I agree. This movie was definitely not the best musical Depp's done."

Understatement of the year. This is a movie I can only tolerate with the sound off.
Ranting Swede
Aug 31st, 2010, 08:26 PM
Nick, you need to see Ed Wood. that is Tim Burton's best film hands down.
Pickled Patriarch
Sep 1st, 2010, 12:31 AM
No, Pee-Wee's Big Adventure is his best film. There is no arguing this.