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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 Erik Childress

"Ripper's Bigger Influence? Serial Killers or Movies?"
3 stars

"One day, men will look back and say, I gave birth to the twentieth century.” That’s a quote from Jack the Ripper that opens From Hell, a stylishly grim tale that offers the first spin of the legend in the 21st century. That excerpt obviously refers to the metaphorical underpinnings of The Ripper’s relationship to man’s dark nature starting to unravel in the 1900s. But in the context of From Hell, it makes more sense to compare it to the number of serial killer and Sherlock Holmes-type mysteries we’ve been accustomed to in the last hundred years, especially in the world of movies. For where From Hell entertains with its atmosphere and performances, its central mystery to the identity of the ultimate unmasked killer will prove to be not much of a mystery to those who have seen most of those movies.

I must admit, in the spirit of fair play, to knowing my fair share about the history of Jack and his victims. In 1988, one hundred years after the case was marked “unsolved”, a television miniseries came along using the newly released court records to shed its own theory on the murders. It starred Michael Caine (in a Golden Globe-winning performance) as Chief Inspector Frederick Abberline who followed the trail of characters and clues (most of which can be found in From Hell) to the final ambush and capture of the notorious slasher.

The identity of the Ripper was the same there as it is here, although a larger conspiratorial plot has been moved to the forefront. Johnny Depp gets to play Inspector Abberline this time, except with a proclivity for opium dens which may or may not induce the visions he’s been having of the Ripper’s victims. One of those visions is that of Mary Kelly (a surprisingly decent Heather Graham), who is the most fresh-faced cleanest streetwalker this side of Big Ben. She possesses none of the moles or blotchiness of her co-workers who remain the closest knit of whores since Clint Eastwood’s “Unforgiven”.

This den of hoariness is whom the Ripper sets his sights on. One-by-one they are picked off like teenage friends in a Jason movie, only with a lot more style. Could it have something to do with their knowledge of that little baby born by one of them? Possibly. If the film’s title were changed to “Sleepy Hollow II”, would it make much of a difference? Most likely not.

You have Johnny Depp playing a police inspector with unusual methods. He has a love interest that may be closely linked to the murders. The killer, whether it be Jack the Ripper or The Headless Horseman, isn’t killing indiscriminately, but carefully picking his victims within a circle of friends who know a little more than they should. There’s a carriage fight and a final surprise revelation that leads us to the one person the filmmakers has been shifting our attention away from as much as possible. Yet is the film still entertaining? Absolutely.

As stated before, directors Allen and Albert Hughes have infused From Hell with such a perfection to detail and an ambience of darkness that its impossible to look away. Using Alan Moore’s graphic novel as the film’s inspiration, every exterior frame looks like a comic book storyboard. Gore fans may be slightly disappointed that most of the blood and mutilations are kept at a soft focus or in the background, but that only sets everybody up for what could be the greatest throat slashing ever captured on film towards the end.

Johnny Depp is reliable as ever and he’s back with some solid support from Robbie Coltrane as his loyal partner, Sergeant Godley, and the always welcome Ian Holm as Sir William Gull, a sickly doctor for the Royal Family whom advises Abberline in his investigation. It’s a shame that screenwriters Terry Hayes (The Road Warrior) and Rafael Yglesias (Fearless) couldn’t inject a little more life and heart into more of the living characters, especially since vital organs had already been taken from the Ripper’s victims.

I have enough confidence that I would have figured out the Ripper’s identity even without the knowledge of the ’88 miniseries. All the familiar trappings of whodunits are present here, even up to one of the oldest Three-Card Monte tricks in the book. Intriguingly enough, From Hell offers up a clean-cut solution to the age-old mystery without ever using the world “unsolved” in the end. I guess that kind of revisionist history gives them a little more freedom to take creative license with the outcome of Mary Kelly. From Hell is certainly more Sherlock Holmes than Freddy Krueger, and while it doesn’t exactly qualify as a horror film, its creepy and fascinating enough to garner your undivided attention. I only wish some revisionist would come along to make mysteries such as this a little more unsolvable.

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originally posted: 10/18/01 08:03:14
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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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