There was a research screening last night of Tim Burton‘s Sweeney Todd (Dreamamount, 12.21), and it played, for most viewers, as a very satisfying musical horror film. Not a gothic London period tragedy but a classic horror flick in the vein of Phantom of the Opera, says one observer. Oh, and it occasionally morphs into an out-and-out blood bath.

Tim Burton (l.) directs Johnny Depp (r.) during shooting of Sweeney Todd.

So says one guy who attended last night’s research screening of Burton’s film on the Universal lot. During the focus-group discussion “there was some doubt [expressed] that it would appeal to horror fans, even though it clearly is a horror movie, the songs notwithstanding,” writes’s Steve Biodrowski.

“There seemed to be a misapprehension that ‘horror’ equated with Saw, and that fans of that franchise and others of its ilk would [therefore] not enjoy the Burton film,” Biodrowski observes.

“Personally, I think nothing could be further from the truth. The blood explodes in only a few scenes of Sweeney, but when it rains, it pours in unbelievably graphic gouts of gushing red. I can’t remember when or if I ever saw this much red splashed across the screen in a mainstream studio movie.

“More important, the Sweeney character” — portrayed by Johnny Depp — “fits the classic movie monster mold” a la The Phantom of the Opera, Biodrowksi contends. “He does horrible things, but the audience identifies with and even roots for him to dispatch his victims, who more often than not deserve what they get.”

Biodrowski’s piece seems fairly comprehensive, emphasis on the “seems.” The film apparently runs about 110 minutes sans end credits, according to another source. “Very brutal, very bloody,” this other guy says. The Envelope‘s Tom O’Neil will be pleased to hear that “Depp and company don’t skip on the singing” and that the “vocals are great.” The film has “five more weeks of sound mixing” to go, he says.

Everyone apparently loved it at the screening “except for a handful of people, one of whom complained that the film provides “no closure” (an assertion dispute by another who says “it may or may not show you exactly what happens to everybody, but it gives you enough information to figure it out satisfactorily”).

The “no closure” guy also sneered about Depp’s performance, saying that he had seen the actor in similar roles too often before; he called Sweeney “Edward Scissorhands possessed by Jack Sparrow.” This remark was obviously intended as criticism, although “the marketing people actually liked it,” reports one poster, “saying they would like to put the comment in their promotional campaign.”