Son of 31 Nights, 31 Frights: Sweeney Todd

Son of 31 Nights, 31 Frights

In observance of that autumn spell when we celebrate the primal, compulsive instinct of fear, Rainestorm once more highlights 31 days of spooky scares to season the eerie atmosphere of Halloween.

For those who tuned in last year, I subjected you to a daily dose of diabolical dread and devilish distress. Just as every good horror movie deserves an inferior sequel, I offer this follow-up of also-rans, not bads, and perhaps a couple of you’ve-gotta-be-kidding-mes.

Unleashed: 2007

Sweeney Todd

"What are you looking at... my skunk hair?"

What evil lurks: A bloody good film in every sense. Tim Burton has never done and will likely never do better than this grand guignol musical horror show. Dante Faretti’s production design reveals a Burton-esque soundstage version of 19th century London that has a Universal Pictures monster movie appeal. Literal geysers of blood paint the frame as Sweeney Todd (Johnny Depp) goes about providing human meat for Mrs. Lovett’s (Helena Bonham Carter) grinder on his long journey toward revenge. Set against Stephen Sondheim’s wonderful music and lyrics, Tim Burton finally found an outlet for his offbeat sense of macabre humor to which he can do full justice. From the grim beginning to the grisly end, Burton keeps it playful but never childish, making Sweeney Todd his most complete movie to date.

Highlight from hell: Sweeney Todd sings a forlorn ballad to his long lost daughter as he breezily slits the throats of a parade of customers who wander into his barber’s chair.

Terrifying trivia: Four “Harry Potter” series alumni appear in this film: Helena Bonham Carter (Mrs. Lovett/Bellatrix Lestrange), Alan Rickman (Judge Turpin/Severus Snape), Timothy Spall (Beadle/Peter Pettigrew), and Jamie Campbell Bower (Anthony Hope/Gellert Grindelwald).

Diabolical dialogue: “You gandered at my ward, Johanna. You gandered at her. Yes, sir, you gandered!”

Son of: Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992). Eschewing computer technology in favor of practical, in-camera effects, Director Francis Ford Coppola demonstrates what good old-fashioned ingenuity can create when one is restricted by the tools he can use.

Shoddy sequel syndrome: The singing is a bit inelegant, particularly from lead Depp.

  • Mark

    Could’ve done without the CG blood though. Curious that you didn’t mention Nightmare Before Christmas or Corpse Bride as those try to synthesize the old school stop-motion techniques with modern ones.

    Great Coppola trivia. Quite a beautiful adaptation with only some performance difficulties (Winona & Keanu).

    The Harry Potter alumni can also be known as the Merchant Ivory gang.

  • I have not seen nor have I been moved to see ‘Corpse Bride’. I was never a fan of ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’.