Jack the Ripper is Back In ‘From Hell’
So Good, It Gets One StarBy Nicholas Sidelnik
Directed by Albert and Allen Hughes
Written by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell
Starring Johnny Depp, Heather Graham, Ian Holm
From Hell explores the exploits of Jack the Ripper in an overly gory manner. The film is set in the repulsive streets of 1888 London, where prostitution and poverty run rampant. The streets of Westchapel are home to a multitude of knife wielding citizens/suspects. But the number of people who call Westchapel their home decreases every night, as five prostitutes are violently and ritualistically murdered and mutilated. The young and troubled Inspector Frederick Abberline (Depp) is called in to investigate the grisly murders on the streets of Westchapel. Abberline’s prophetic visions, stimulated by drug addiction, identify future victims, but he is unable to find them in time to save their lives. One of his visions is of Mary Kelly (Heather Graham), to whom Abberline quickly becomes romantically attached.
The storyline of From Hell contains a series of clashing stories. There is the slasher aspect, with disgusting murders and senseless violence, and then there is the love story between Abberline and Kelly. These belong in separate movies altogether. The love story is hardly appropriate; Kelly loses her best friends and spends little more than a minute or two grieving before Depp appears to push the story along. And if a love story exists in this movie it needs to be better developed. The bloody bodies piling up left and right seem to distract too much from the love story’s screen time.
The movie is tactless in its depictions of the murders. Nauseating scenes of throats being sliced on a 40-foot movie screen are not very entertaining. A horror film can have blood and guts, but it appears as if the makeup and special effects crews were having a field day. At least the filming style of the movie was interesting at certain points. The film was run through a green filter and the frame speed increased to create a surreal effect that was very effective. A mysterious character in a top hat holding a dissection kit and walking towards the screen in a possessed manner was certainly frightening.
From Hell unveils a ridiculous plot to explain the identity of Jack the Ripper and his motivation for killing, which rises to the highest levels of the monarchy. The conspiracy theory that unfolds is so ridiculous and so farfetched, it becomes almost comical. Everything you ever knew about the royal family is locked into the tower of London in this movie. The film runs though the gauntlet of conspiracy components. Secret societies, illegitimate children, corrupt leaders, you name it, this movie has it all.
Some members of the cast in From Hell are poorly cast. Depp fits into the dark streets of London rather nicely, very reminiscent of his role in Sleepy Hollow. His dark complexion and mysterious habits match the dark and mysterious crimes that he solves. However, Heather Graham does not have the right appearance for the rough streets of 1888 London. Her pretty face doesn’t fit the impoverished life of a prostitute; her beautiful appearance clashes with her circumstances and behavior. This is, after all, the same actress that played Felicity Shagwell in Austin Powers 2. Her makeup in the film is out of touch with the times as well. An island of perfect hair and blush always seem to appear on Mary Kelly no matter what the circumstances.
From Hell is a movie for people trying to meet their media violence quota. It makes a poor attempt at a love story, and ends up clashing with the prominent thread of violence in the movie. The plot pushes a farfetched scenario to explain Jack the Ripper, and the cast gives a marginal performance.