Projections - Movie Reviews

From Hell

From Hell

As we enter the season where darkness is more common than light, From Hell delivers its treat via a dark and foreboding set and cast.  In their presentation of 19th century England, the Hughes brothers direct Johnny Depp, Heather Graham, Paul Rhys, Ian Holm and others in a new rendition of the fabled Jack the Ripper tale.

Depp, portrays opium addicted Inspector Abberline of Scotland Yard.  It seems that the inspector has many of the same qualities of the equally fabled Shelock Holmes in that while in the opium induced trance, Abberline has “visions” and has solved many cases by deducing who the criminal was from the barest of facts.  It is these capabilities that get him assigned to this case.

We are fortunate that the brothers Hughes don't attempt to bring great factual or historical information into this film.  Instead, they concentrate on a feel that is so real that at times you forget you are in a theater.  Add into the Ripper tale a love story between Abberline and a would be victim (Heather Graham) plus a secret society and a syphilis infected crown prince and you have a tale woven so intricately that your full attention is demanded.

There are times where the scenes are graphic, not out of shock value, but out of necessity.  Jack the Ripper was a killer who murdered women and did so in a most horrific way .  To say the least, from the murders to the opium induced “trips”, this film is dark and grim.

Our new tale revolves around an early 1970’s investigation that many call the “royal conspiracy” where the trail to the murder leads directly to Buckingham Castle and the secret Freemasons society.  While there are many “thoughts” on the subject of who Jack the Ripper was that range from a deranged whore master to a woman of equal disposition, this royal link plays well.  Royal doctor Sir William Gull (Ian Holm) assists the good inspector and even attempts to free him from the grip of the opium dragon while in fact works covertly with the Queen to insure that the syphilis contracted by her son will never be revealed and his love child would never come to rule.

The acting here is very good as the usual one dimensional Graham fills out her role and the corset of prostitute Mary Kelly. The meek ladies of the street and of the time played by Annabelle Apsion, Katrin Cartlidge, Susan Lynch and Leslie Sharp are simply trying to survive with the only skills they have and all the actresses are believable in their roles.  Also perfectly cast was Sir Ian Richardson as the pompous police commissioner Sir Charles Warren.  This elitist portrayal was perfect for the story and the times.  Depp seems to have found the soul and the demons of his character and delivers in all aspects of the role.

Though you watch from a detached perspective, you can not help but like the characters, including the villain.  It is this that will keep you involved, but it is the story that will absorb you.  This is not for the weak of heart or stomach, but not truly gory by today's standards.  This is a treat for those that like a story that goes somewhere and makes you feel as though you are wandering the dirty fog laden streets of 19th century London with danger lurking behind every corner.

From Hell

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