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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 Rob Gonsalves

"Chilling Ripper tale."
4 stars

Halfway through the stunning 1999 graphic novel 'From Hell,' written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Eddie Campbell, Jack the Ripper is busily dissecting his latest victim when he suddenly finds himself in a late-20th-century office building. Either hallucinating or receiving a vision of things to come, he looks around and despairs:

"With all your shimmering numbers and your lights, think not to be inured to history. Its black root succours you. It is inside you. Are you asleep to it, that you cannot feel its breath upon your neck, nor see what soaks its cuffs? See me! Wake up and look upon me! I am come amongst you. I am with you always!"

Wonder is gone; chaos has been tamed into plastic; the very gods appear to be dead. What doesn't occur to him is that this is his true legacy -- not murder, which existed long before Jack, but soullessness, apathy, insensitivity to suffering.

I wish the movie From Hell had found a way to include that passage -- for me the finest in a book teeming with dark magic -- but what it does include is more than good enough. Directors Allen and Albert Hughes (Menace II Society) and screenwriters Terry Hayes and Rafael Yglesias can't possibly pack in all the density of narrative and background that sprawls across Moore and Campbell's phone-book-thick volume. This From Hell paints in short, sure strokes, tossing in a few of Moore's details about events/people co-existing with the Ripper murders of 1888 (the Elephant Man, the Freemasons, Queen Victoria) while omitting others (Oscar Wilde, the conception of Adolf Hitler).

The movie also gives us a hero -- Inspector Frederick Abberline (Johnny Depp), an opium-addled and rather depressive detective who, like the book's Jack, receives visions. Whores are being butchered, ritually and methodically, and left on the freezing cobblestones of Whitechapel. In a plot worthy of Oliver Stone (and backed up by certain Ripperologists, as obsessive about Jack as others are about the JFK assassination), Abberline begins to suspect that the murders, rather than being random acts of savagery, may lead all the way up to the throne.

The Hughes brothers give us impressionistic bursts of violence -- we don't see the brutality so much as feel it. They also draw out the misogynistic dread of the Victorian era, the disgust toward female sexuality (another legacy of Jack that lives on -- the female body can be understood only by tearing it asunder). From what I can gather, the movie is saying that what we know of violence today has its roots in politics, mysticism, and surgery -- all attempts to dissect the human experience, of course. At the center of all this is Abberline and fresh-faced prostitute Mary Kelly (Heather Graham), who dreams of getting away, moving to a home in the country, and having lots of kids to love. It's looking as if she's next on Jack's to-do list.

Depp and Graham, both sporting serviceable accents, add warmth and urgency to what might have been a cold movie. It's chilly nevertheless; while discarding a lot out of necessity, the filmmakers have retained Moore's basic outline, culminating in the Ripper's most horrific mutilation yet, a thorough dismantling of physicality in which Jack fancies himself giving a lecture on anatomy to an appreciative surgical-theater class. Somehow, the movie taps into the book's uncanny implication that the very air is charged with malevolent ancient spirits, that our houses and bodies are just thin shells warding them off, ineffectually.

From Hell leaves you metaphysically disquieted rather than pleasurably spooked. Those in the mood for a crackling gothic-horror murder mystery may want to rent Sleepy Hollow, also with Depp; this one's a bit tougher to shake off. The movie is beautifully squalid and dank -- cinematographer Peter Deming, who also shot David Lynch's Mulholland Drive, should take a step up in his profession for this double whammy -- and the script, taking as much as possible from Moore, is satisfyingly literate. The Hughes brothers, too, have proven themselves masters of violence among the urban class -- this one just happens to unfold in 1888 London.

I regret a bit of copping out at the end, but even this is balanced with rhyming portraits of desolation and loss: Jack and Abberline, alone and oblivious, communing with the spirits in their heads -- the connective tissue between good and evil has become delirium, and the Ripper is with us always.

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originally posted: 01/24/07 15:28:37
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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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