What’s better to fit into the horror genre than a musical?
Wait…I didn’t mean it like that.
The next film in the October Fear Fest and the horror binge-a-thon is the stage play Sweeney Todd, which was adapted for the big screen starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter as two of the worst protagonists to ever grace the cinema world.
After being banished by an evil judge, Benjamin Barker returns to London under the name Sweeney Todd (Johnny Depp) to reunite with his lost love and daughter. When the truth of the situation confronts him, he quickly changes his plan from reunion to revenge. Meeting up with Ms. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter), the pair concoct a plan for Todd to get his revenge on the people of London, to murder the evil Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman) and to hide their bloody rampage inside Ms. Lovett’s meat pies.
Directed by the stylish Tim Burton with songs from Stephen Sondheim, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is a blood-soaked good time.
The most interesting thought experiment is trying to decide exactly which of these characters are the worst. Sweeney Todd has the tragic background and you are meant to identify with him as the hero, but he is anything but. His descent into madness had happened well before he had returned to London and he has basically become a serial killer. Judge Turpin was a horrendous man who abused the power of his position for his own whims, taking Lucy (Laura Michelle Kelly) from Benjamin and raping her. He also took the Barkers’ daughter as his own ward. If that is not enough, we get a scene of him sentencing a young boy to hang from the neck for the crime of stealing. Ms. Lovett manipulated Sweeney Todd into what she wanted to aid in her own success with her meat pies. She did not blink at all when the dead bodies started falling into her bake shop.
Ms. Lovett did show some feelings for Toby (Ed Sanders), the boy who was working for the Italian barber Pirelli (Sacha Baron Cohen). However, once Toby started asking questions, she locked him in the cellar and brought Sweeney Todd down to, supposedly, get rid of him.
These rotten people all have extremely satisfying endings as Burton spared no scene of horror. Ms. Lovett, in particular, gets a gruesome finale.
The music is wonderful. I love the songs and the performances, even by the so-so singers, are perfect. The song, “Little Priest” is one of my favorite songs of the whole piece.
Sweeney Todd is dark and comedic. It is brutal and violent. It blends all of this together seamlessly and creates a visually and thoroughly engaging film. Depp and Carter are wonderful as the criminal duo and Alan Rickman is as fantastic as always with his dirtbag judge.