Halloween Endurance Test: Sweeny Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

It’s hard not to love musicals, even horror ones. Mainly because the genre’s so stigma’ed that the only musicals they’ll make are planned so carefully they have to be great. No flubbed lines; either in the vocalization nor in the writing.

Though Tim Burton does his best to ruin it. Desperate to prove that his last great film will remain Big Fish, Burton shows just how stymied his artistic vision has become since the commercial/critical backlash that was Batman Returns.

First, if your film is about the infamous barber of Fleet Street, don’t start your film with the worst looking CGI blood ever to insult the screen. Blood’s the recurring theme in the film, take the time to get it to look right. Your credit crawl is first thing people see, you already have their money. Don’t make it look like you spent it on the wrong stuff.

Depp here reminds me too much of Nick Cave. This might just be because all the songs sound like Murder Ballads outtakes. Not a bad thing, though it does hang over the film. (The entire end sequence seemingly owing its existence to Cave’s (“Papa Won’t Leave You Henry”) “the walls ran red around me with his warm arterial spray” line.

Much like a song, the film doesn’t so much end as it just stops. Todd is murdered, quick fade, start credit crawl. All the subplots you had to labor through are either given a “one flick of a razor clutching wrist” conclusion or forgotten altogether.

So your enjoyment of the film will depend on how well you know Nick Cave’s back catalog. Since there’s barely a plot to speak of, it’ll be your job to concoct one for the story. That’s where the Bad Seeds come in. Similar to Floyd and the Wizard of Oz, just cue the movie and record up at the same time for maximum enjoyment.


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