Never have I known a film in recent times that has polarised opinion as much as this one, but the division tends to stem from a lack of understanding of the context. Put simply, you either 'get' it, or you don't. This isn't a piece of pop-culture fluff that can be dismissed or ignored, but people seem to, anyway, in this climate of lacklustre, derivative, archetype-reliant cinema. Sondheim's musical upon which this is based is the stuff of legend, and Tim Burton, one of the most unique minds in cinema today, clearly perceives the purpose of the source material, and translates it to the screen with the bare minimum of editing. This isn't a story that needs a happy ending, or even a neat and tidy one, and the songs, much loved, much derided, are intrinsic to the atmosphere--and that is one of gradually creeping, malevolent madness. Whimsical asides juxtapose with intense savagery and cold-blooded detachment from amorality, and Burton's style, ostensibly morbid and gothic, suits this in a way I could not have anticipated. Burton's films have always been special, but this one, his most adult, is easily the most accomplished in terms of narrative. Benjamin Barker's journey into his own heart of darkness, and dragging those unfortunate enough to get caught in his razor-sharp wake down with him, is one that cannot be summarised in a manner akin to the more mundane cinema of recent times. It polarises opinion simply because it must be approached with a certain mindset, the appopriate context, and that changes from person to person. But still, this film NEEDS to be seen, even if you're familiar with the play. The songs are equal parts darkly humorous and sinister, and the content, almost bleached of colour--intentionally--comes alive when the lurid shades of crimson start to flow. The story has no tidy ending, and it doesn't need one, for it doesn't adhere to pop-culture sensibilities; this is as close to art-house as mainstream could possibly get. It's merely the tale of one man's quest for vengeance getting lost in the insanity to which he has been subjected, and has come to flourish in, henceforth becoming the 'demon barber of Fleet Street.' It's a tragic story, and there's no way it could end happily, but the journey is the point, and the insight into the mind of a man slave to his obsession, and the devastation it causes. I myself have little patience for musicals, often finding them pretentious, but Sondheim's play, and Burton's adaptation, go deeper than the pretence of a performance with songs, using them to twist and subvert your perceptions, and accurately portray a sense of building insanity. If you're looking for something meaty, something adult and substantial to sink your teeth into, you NEED to see this. This film gets an 18 rating for its severe gore--in the tradition of grand guignol--but in truth, its most adult because of its subject matter. A bleakly shining star in cinema's dark sky. Please don't let the naysayers sway you; films like this don't come along every day.