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SWEENY TODD (2006 BBC adaptation) **** DVD review by SEBASTIAN

Posted on September 19th, 2008
Posted on September 19th, 2008


I can clearly remember “Silence of the Lambs” when it first released in theaters in 1991. I thought it was extremely effective in its bending of genre stereotypes. It also scared the hell outta me.

“Sweeny Todd” doesn’t quite live up to the legacy of Silence, but it delivers some first class chills, as well as first-class acting and production values.

Ray Winstone and Essie Davis are quite compelling as a gruesome duo in 18th century London who cause a bit of mayhem with their dastardly deeds. Ray Winstone is Sweeney Todd, a barber who is haunted by a devastating childhood spent enduring terrible conditions as well as labor in a prison. Spurred on one night by a particularly insistent and devious prison guard, Todd commits murder almost by accident. But this is no accident, for Todd’s blood thirst grows insatiable. Soon he entwines innocent Mrs. Lovett (Essie Davis) in his schemes and all manner of lunacy follows.

I was impressed by Dave Moore’s somber and pensive film. This one is so dark it makes me re-examine the word. The tone of the film is just right, and director Moore never lets us forget that these characters are as real-world inspired as you can get in this genre. That approach reminds me of “Silence of the Lambs”, and its thoroughly psychological exchanges of dialogue.

Though there is a bit of gore in the film, its not where it succeeds the most. Its power lies in its characters’ minds. Here the viewer gets caught in a virtual web that is hard to escape from even days after the movie is over. That’s what I like to see in a horror film. Dramatic dynamics and subtle scares.

Ray Winstone is always a great actor (see “The Proposition” and “The Departed” for examples), but it was Essie Davis who stole the show here. She had a great character and brought it vividly to life. I think that performance will linger with me for awhile.

The production was shot very nicely, boasting some impressive lighting designs and sets (esp. for TV). Horror fans should dig getting to see the superb David Warner in a small role. All the supporting players do an excellent job, but this show belongs to Winstone and Davis.

There’s definitely a poetic flow to the movie, and I always think that’s an asset.

This film may not satisfy the die-hard gorehounds, but if you like intelligent challenging fare, you’re in for a nice treat.

4 out of 5 stars

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