Whether it’s the ghosts from “Beetlejuice” or the titular character in “The Corpse Bride,” Tim Burton can always manage to make the morbid seem cute. Except, of course, when it stops being cute. When Burton directed “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” he adapted this dark Broadway musical with appropriate heaviness. However, there is one moment in the film that may have gone too far — the death of Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter).
On the stage, Mrs. Lovett’s death is definitely dark but not usually graphic. For instance, just look at the 2005 production starring Patti LuPone as Mrs. Lovett. After Sweeney Todd (Michael Cerveris) discovers Mrs. Lovett’s betrayal, he mimes slitting her throat with a razor and LuPone goes limp, before she slowly stands to symbolize her spirit leaving her body.
Meanwhile, Burton takes full advantage of the cinematic medium to show Todd (Johnny Depp) hurling Mrs. Lovett into the furnace. Rather than cutting away and relying on the power of suggestion, the camera hovers unflinchingly on Mrs. Lovett as she writhes in agony. That’s right: We get to watch a woman burn alive as if it wasn’t bad enough that we’ve just seen dozens of mutilated bodies dumped in Todd’s basement and witnessed the hero unwittingly slit his wife’s throat. In such a bleak and gory movie, this is one horror too many. Bonham Carter does a brilliant job here, but the whole sequence is gratuitous and bound to make even the most stoic viewers squeamish.