If you pressed me to pick my favorite slasher, I would pick the one who wears a cravat and sponsors a recycling program. He may not be as physically terrorizing as Jason, Freddy, or Michael Myers, but Sweeney is just as ruthless. Once he decides that revenge is best served in a hot crust, no one is safe from his blade. Perhaps he's not as creative with his kills as Jason or Freddy is, but he's a lot more poetic. Few slashers are both a serial killer and a Byronic hero, and few horror movies feature a hero who moans over his lost daughter as he opens another jugular.
The blend of the romantic and the horrific is what makes Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street such a delicious story. At its twisted center, the story is all about love. Sweeney is motivated by the loss of his wife and child, Mrs. Lovett assists him because she's always loved him, Judge Turpin is twisted by love and lust for Johanna, and the tender romance of Johanna and Anthony helps bring it all to an even bloodier denouement.
Combine its Gothic romance with its cheery tunes (cannibalism, rape, child abuse, alcoholism, and insanity have never been so catchy!) and historical / social commentary, and you have a pretty demented little tale. Am I the only one who watches it, and hopes every single time that once Sweeney dispatches Judge Turpin to his gravy, he and Mrs. Lovett will flee London, make a new life together and enjoy lifelong success running a meat pie shop by the sea? I know he and Mrs. Lovett deserved their ugly ends, but Sweeney's seems especially bitter. He may have put a lot of innocent men into pies, but did he deserve such a personal twist of the razor? I think even the Greek playwrights would find that one cold.
Yes, I've gushed too much. But Sweeney is a villain I truly love, and I don't know what it says about me that it's one of the few Johnny Depp performances that I find really sexy. (When he's stalking the balcony above the pie shop, looking down on its unsuspecting customers? And when he bares his throat to Toby? Yes, I can see why Depp keeps so many girls up at night.) It's also one of the only Tim Burton films I can watch over and over again. I've posted some of my favorite clips below (they do contain spoilers!), and I hope the Sondheim purists can forgive me for enjoying this version so damn much.