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Overall Rating

Awesome: 17.09%
Worth A Look: 33.33%
Pretty Bad: 7.69%
Total Crap: 4.27%

7 reviews, 75 user ratings

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From Hell
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by Scott Weinberg

"A movie that works because of its ugliness, and not in spite of it."
4 stars

While the legend of Jack the Ripper is certainly nothing new iin the world of cinema, this most recent incarnation benefits from a solid story structure, a hypnotic visual sense and a handful of fantastic acting performances. You can forgive From Hell its 'historical license' mainly because the end result is a darkly engrossing and intelligently-written tale; one that is a true rarity: A horror movie for grown-ups.

When I heard that the Jack the Ripper legend was about to be tackled again, I was intrigued by the choice of director(s). Best known for the urban action films Menace II Society and Dead Presidents, The Hughes Brothers might not have seemed like the best "fit" for this material. Someone over at Fox studios was using their head, because these directors bring a truly stunning visual sense to the dank and depraved goings-on. (Imagine a smelly, dirty horror version of Moulin Rouge.)

Though you're no doubt familiar with the tale of Jack the Ripper, From Hell offers some well-told exposition that allows the filmmakers some entertainingly creative license, while still holding close enough to history. (Students of this legend will no doubt point out that The Ripper was indeed never apprehended.) From Hell is a great example of why it's sometimes perfectly fine for filmmakers to re-mold history to tell their story. (For an example of the diametric opposite if this concept, feel free to ingest the muck that is Pearl Harbor.)

It's London in 1885 and a mysterious figure has been slaughtering the local prostitutes in the Whitechapel district. The severity of the killings brings Inspector Abberline to the case, and this is a policeman with a peculiar gift: he seems to catch visions of the killer's next prey. Unfortunately, the detective must also be zonked out on opium before his visions appear. The local crime syndicate is the first suspect, but Abberline rules them out quickly, as the crimes are simply too vile to be committed by petty criminals.

Much of what makes From Hell so entertaining is the clever plot structure the Hughes brothers have conceived. The screenplay (by Terry Hayes and Rafael Yglesias) offers several seemingly unrelated subplots that eventually tie themselves together in a not-completely-predictable fashion. These side stories also offer the audience a who's who of possible murderers. Yes, that's right. From Hell is not merely a stylish horror film, but a pretty damn effective whodunnit to boot!

Firmly entrenched on the grimy streets of London are a rather unsavory cast of characters: the oily Police Commissioner, an obese coroner, a devious carriage driver, the court physician, the local crime boss and his henchmen and of course a whole gaggle of grungy prostitutes. The one beauty among the crowd is the luminous Mary Kelly, who of course catches the eye of Inspector Abberline throughout the course of his investigation.

Though there's hardly a weak link among the cast (more on that in a minute), the star of this film is easily its visual splendor. From its deep purple sunsets to the overwhelmingly vile city streets, From Hell is certainly a wonderful movie to see. And while many modern movies are "fun for the eyes", From Hell is more than just cool to look at.

Johnny Depp (Sleepy Hollow, Blow) adds yet another fantastic performance to his already impressive track record. His Inspector Abberline is by no means a gung-ho crime fighter, but a haunted and tragic figure. Depp brings a wonderful sense of confusion and a trace of ironic humor to his performance, and I think it's one of his best ever. Faring not as well (but still better than usual) is the lovely Heather Graham (Bowfinger, Boogie Nights) as the only beautiful whore in all of London.

If nothing else, From Hell contains a wealth of strong performances by its impressive supporting cast. Ian Holm (Alien, Big Night) as court physician William Gull is as strong as ever. (Has this guy ever given a bad performance?) Ian Richardson (Dark City, Year of the Comet) is great fun as the pompous and untrusting Police Commissioner. As Abberline's affable partner, Robbie Coltrane (Nuns on the Run, GoldenEye) brings an essential sense of sweetness and decency to a story that's simply knee-deep in ugliness.

And make no mistake. Despite the fact that From Hell is a fine motion picture, it is an unremittingly ugly film. From the filthy, urine-soaked streets of the city's red-light district to the grimy and unsavory looking lunatic asylums, From Hell is a movie that will jolt your senses repeatedly. Of course, the shocking violence and candid depictions of base humanity only serve to tell the story better.

Based on the classic graphic novel (by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell), From Hell should prove a solid treat to horror movie fans who've grown weary of slasher machinations and subterranean slime monsters. Deftly plotted, well-acted, graphically memorable and ultimately satsifying, From Hell deserves praise for taking a creaky old tale and offering it in a surprisingly original light.

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originally posted: 10/16/01 11:49:44
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User Comments

10/30/16 morris campbell good looking but a bullshit interpretation of the ripper legend they never knew who he was 2 stars
12/05/11 Pamela WhiteGreat adaptation of the Ripper story 4 stars
8/16/10 R.W. Welch Another interpolation of the Ripper mystery, but no more convincing than all the others. 3 stars
8/30/09 CTT Rather blah and familiar 3 stars
1/21/09 Psychotic angel Flawed, it has good Ripper atmosphere, but based on Alan Moore´s comic. 4 stars
10/08/08 Shaun Wallner Great Action!! 5 stars
1/26/07 del Good-looking, but a storyline that drags badly. Rent "Murder by Decree" instead. 3 stars
1/24/07 Ole Man Bourbon Very little to this movie. 3 stars
5/07/06 chienne Where was Walter Sickert in all this? Great film - superbly done. 5 stars
4/18/06 john bale The lurid colour rather defeats the gothic horror of the Ripper's slayings. 4 stars
3/19/06 MP Bartley Satisfyingly grisly and engrossing. Graham is wooden, Depp odd as ever... 4 stars
1/04/06 CrowTRobot Came so close to being great at times, but in the end missed the mark. A shame. 3 stars
8/09/05 Sylvanthunder Quite a good movie ,who cares about the cockney accent, nobody but the British! 5 stars
5/13/05 Indrid Cold Silly and MTVish, but decent entertainment nonetheless. 3 stars
2/07/05 John Bale Inept version of The Ripper, Depp miscast, whole thing looks like an overlit TV Commercial 3 stars
8/02/04 Raf Milis This movie is really creepy, Depp is awesome, but so is the whole setting...Great job!! 5 stars
1/22/04 American Slasher Goddess Not the best Jack the Ripper movie ever made, but still very good. 4 stars
12/14/03 Agent Sands (previously Mr. Hat) A step down from the Hughes brothers. Depp is OK. No good at being scary. 2 stars
12/06/03 john a great Jack the Ripper film - the atomsphere is truly creepy - Depp is great! first rate 5 stars
10/19/03 Ingo Very good adaptation. 4 stars
9/12/03 KING EDWARD anyone who dosen't agree with the great w. gull should be killed like a whitechapel WHORE. 5 stars
7/13/03 George Jung A great movie. Jack Sommersby is queer. Super queer. 5 stars
5/04/03 sleepy learned how to smoke opium. 5 stars
4/17/03 Shadaan Felfeli well made - definately worth the admission ticket 4 stars
11/12/02 Monster W. Kung Dull, dull, dull. 2 stars
9/27/02 John McNew Atmospheric and interesting, but its numerous attempts to be scary are simply unsuccessful. 3 stars
9/02/02 hum non involving 2 stars
9/02/02 y2mckay Depp and Graham have lame accents. Tries to put every ripper theory into one story & fails 3 stars
8/25/02 Jamal First - rate atmospheric thriller 5 stars
8/14/02 Bryan Brooks Grotesque and pointless. 2 stars
7/11/02 James the worst piece of shit 1 stars
7/04/02 KMG There was something about the atmosphere that was missing 4 stars
6/24/02 Baal Don't be fooled - it's awesome. Great atmosphere, great story, great actors. Loved it! 5 stars
6/10/02 davey mac not worth my time or the $4.60 it cost me to rent it!!! 2 stars
5/29/02 Kyle Jesus Christ... you people are fucking insane... I fell asleep during this! 1 stars
5/27/02 Amy Too typical horror movie-ish, but great cinematography 4 stars
5/27/02 Nicole Good story done poorly....turned into a slasher movie making it lose its reality 3 stars
5/19/02 The Conscience Objector Less Jack, More Ripper 3 stars
5/16/02 spyguy2 Depp smokes hash and drinks absinthe, Graham is the worlds prettiest hooker, blah blah blah 3 stars
5/16/02 Butterbean Shot brilliantly.Great theory on the murders.Could have done w/o the half-assed romance. 3 stars
4/15/02 Mark Hortop Great movie with a dark and disturbing psychological edge. Depp and Holm shine. 5 stars
4/03/02 CAT Movie was ok but it was lacking in areas like plot 3 stars
2/28/02 Alan Smithee A complete mess......and Ms. Graham doesn't get naked either. 1 stars
2/22/02 Jimbo only average. that old mason stuff doesn't click anymore 3 stars
2/16/02 Vincent Kennedy What a bleak movie ! ! Warning, Go in depressed, come out suicidal 3 stars
2/15/02 Matthew Smith an ugly, gruesome and uncomfortable experience 3 stars
2/10/02 cookie Depp's bit character talent is wasted on this film. The cause: bad direction+lacking script 3 stars
12/19/01 Monya_t Great Gothic-Thriller..and, J. Depp is FIIIIIINNNNNNEEEEEEE! 5 stars
11/24/01 Axe Murderer good of the years best releases 5 stars
11/18/01 malcolm depp being in a film is starting to be good enough for me to give any film a shot. 3 stars
11/18/01 brent decent, but not exciting. 3 stars
11/09/01 Darren Shea expertly directed, wonderfully atmospheric, good acting (even from Graham!) 5 stars
11/07/01 Daniel Esparza This a very good movie if you want to be frightened and experience a new type of movie. 5 stars
11/06/01 Bueller A would-be psycho-drama-thriller. Sadly, it's just an interesting twist on an old formula. 3 stars
11/06/01 puckfreak From hell indeed...visuals==great, story==lame & boring 2 stars
11/06/01 RazorDog Good story and visuals, but the ending was rather anticlimactic. 3 stars
11/06/01 Visions of dry,drawn out, and really lacking in some places, tried way too hard to be artsy. 3 stars
11/05/01 Bob Simply Stunning. Fun for all. 5 stars
11/04/01 Nausheen Dadabhoy Great acting, directing and story this film has it all! 5 stars
11/02/01 Gay Tooth Fairy Thought is was a waste of my time. Only my opinion ofcourse. 2 stars
10/30/01 Greg Nixon Great story, Heather Graham is good eye-candy but terrible actress, Depp is great as always 4 stars
10/30/01 John Entertaining, very dark, story could have done more. 3 stars
10/29/01 spaceworm Holm's final drool drop left over from ALIEN? 4 stars
10/26/01 TK Hagar His identity is obvious but still chilling. Depp is great as usual, movie is intelligent 5 stars
10/26/01 derek deems this film would have been much better if it had never reavealed the identity of the killer 2 stars
10/24/01 AARD7ARK uhm... lessee... "from hell" or "glitter"... hmmm..... 4 stars
10/24/01 Blaise Stylish, but too many hollywood liberties. Read the comic instad 3 stars
10/23/01 ZACHARY SMITH tho rollergirl was used effectively, i would have liked more backstory on the elephant man. 4 stars
10/22/01 cactus was this movie stolen from tim burton? 3 stars
10/22/01 Waylon Roundtree Heather Graham is the weak spot, but film is still great and atmospheric. 5 stars
10/20/01 TimmyJ Very stylish film, not for everyone but I liked it 4 stars
10/20/01 TimmyTomorrow By the end of the film, I felt like killing the directors. 1 stars
10/19/01 DRS The reviewers don´t know shit! 5 stars
10/17/01 Stylish,depressing, but better acted and more payoff than I was expecting! 4 stars
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  19-Oct-2001 (R)



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