The Horror Honeys: Never Forget. Never Forgive - Sweeney Todd

Never Forget. Never Forgive - Sweeney Todd

A Dark Comedy Honey Review 

Sweeney Todd:  The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

My overriding memory of seeing this Tim Burton film in the cinema is of the sheer number of people that walked out within 20 minutes of the film starting. It has always puzzled me. Were they perhaps not expecting a musical? Not happy about the throat slitting? What? Well, regardless of dimwits who went to see a film about a singing hairdresser that kills people not expecting to see a) singing or b) dead people, this was one of my favourite movies of 2007 and I was more than happy to re-watch the Blu-ray to write this review.

The Plot
Barber Benjamin Barker returns from being unfairly imprisoned to discover that the Judge who sentenced him did so in order to cop off with his wife (who then poisoned herself), then took custody of Barker’s daughter, who he now intends to marry. Feeling somewhat aggrieved about this turn of events Barker adopts the name Sweeney Todd, starts up a barber shop with the help of the sociopathic Mrs. Lovett and proceeds to seek revenge against the Judge while also killing lots of people and passing the corpses to Mrs Lovett for her pie shop.

The Performances
Even though you may roll your eyes and sigh as you see the names Johnny Depp (Sweeney Todd) and Helena Bonham-Carter (Mrs Lovett) in the cast list, both long-time Burton favourites, you shouldn’t worry: they are both well suited to these roles. Depp’s Todd is suitably grief-stricken and angry, sort of like a grown up and pissed off Edward Scissorhands. Bonham-Carter, although not one of my favourite actresses, brings a touch of humanity to Mrs. Lovett, no mean feat considering the shit she gets up to in this film.

Special mention has to go to the ‘baddies’ (in inverted commas because bugger me if everyone isn’t evil as fuck in this film): Judge Turpin played by Alan Rickman and the repulsive Beadle played by Timothy Spall. Rickman as Turpin is a truly disgustingly perverted bad guy, helped in no small way by some of the most hideous trousers ever committed to celluloid. Shiny trousers aside, he ably demonstrates his villainy when, on finding that his ward plans to run off with a sailor rather than, say marry her perverted adoptive father, he has her committed to a lunatic asylum (some parents would probably say this is a perfectly proportionate response to a teenage daughter wanting to date a sailor).

The Singing
If you are picturing some sort of hellish rhyming Andrew Lloyd-Webber singalong, fear not. This is Sondheim: slightly more sophisticated and a hell of a lot darker.

‘They all deserve to die. Tell you why, Mrs. Lovett, tell you why! Because in all of the whole human race, Mrs. Lovett, there are two kinds of men and only two. There's the one staying put in his proper place and one with his foot in the other one's face.’

Although Depp, Bonham-Carter and Rickman are clearly not trained singers, they do remarkably well. I don’t know about you but I never thought I’d be watching Johnny Depp duetting with Alan Rickman in a song about women drinking coffee. You live and learn.

Depp’s gravelly growling is, you suspect, not on purpose, just the only way he can sing in tune, but it does lend a certain amount of depth to the character and works pretty well.

The Deaths
Well I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: no movie is complete without a montage of grisly throat-slitting set to a phenomenally catchy tune. There are an almost apocalyptic number of deaths in this movie; Sasha Baron-Cohen gets battered to death with a kettle (worth the price of admission alone) and vast swathes of extras fall victim to Todd’s razor before the curtain comes down.

It is worth noting that, should the victim survive the initial throat-slice, they then face a head-cracking 20ft drop onto the stone floor of the cellar where Mrs Lovett’s oven is waiting. Nice.

Burton really delights in the visceral nature of the killings in this film. The throat slitting is suitably splatty and the head crushing falls made even me wince once or twice. Suffice to say this film thoroughly earned its 18 (R) certificate.

I’d love to go further and discuss my two favourite deaths. But they come at the end of the movie and would spoil it for those yet to watch.

The Laughs
It doesn’t exactly sound like a laugh fest does it? But there are plenty to be had here. Last year, I was lucky enough to catch the stage show in the West End and here it was clearly played for laughs more than in the movie but still, I found myself chuckling at some points.

My favourite song ‘A Little Priest’ would probably be my comedy highlight of the movie. For those of you who have never heard or seen the musical, this song is where Todd and Mrs. Lovett debate the relative merits of eating people of differing professions. If done well, it’s a classic.

‘It’s Fop, finest in the shop
And we have some shepherd’s pie peppered
With actual shepherd on top…’

I also have to confess to giggling as Todd has his breakdown after failing to slice and dice the Judge leading to a rampage on the streets of London waving his razors at all and sundry asking if they want a shave whilst looking for all the world like a recently escaped serial killer on crack.

Should you watch this movie?

Yes, if you like Tim Burton. Yes, if you like gore with a side order of giggles. No, if you do not like singing, because there’s a lot of it here.

Dark Comedy Honey rating: 8 people pies out of 10. A veritable feast of fun.

Check back on Wednesday for the Revenge Honey's perspective on Sweeney Todd!