Directed By: Albert and Allen Hughes
Written By: Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell (graphic novel), Terry Hayes and Raphael Yglesias (screenplay)
Starring: Johnny Depp, Heather Graham, Ian Holm, Paul Rhys, Robbie Coletrane
MPAA: R (Extreme Violence / Gore / Sexuality / Drug Content)
England, 1888- A vicious killer walks the streets of Victorian London. He has this in common with his unfortunate victims, for they walk the streets as well. One by one, Whitechapel district's ladies of the night are being savagely slaughtered, their throats brutally slashed and their bodies mutilated in ways difficult for any sane person to comprehend. This nefarious and seemingly unstoppable maniac has been aptly named 'Jack the Ripper'. Who is this unknown fiend, and how can he be stopped? It has fallen upon Inspector Frederick Abberline to answer these questions and bring the Ripper to justice. How many more shall die while he undertakes this great endeavor?
Johnny Depp plays Inspector Abberline, whose investigating techniques are as unorthodox today as they would have been in the 19th century. It seems that this police inspector has an incredible ability to ascertain the occurance of events before they happen, in visions brought on primarily through frequent visits to his favorite neighborhood opium den. Yes, a slight breach of proper procedure, to be sure, but quietly permitted due to the inspector's impressive record for solving the Metropolitan police department's most baffling cases.
Heather Graham plays Mary Kelly, one of the poor and desperate women targeted by both Jack the Ripper and Inspector Abberline, but for decidedly different reasons. What is her story, and how on God's green Earth did Heather Graham get cast to play her? Some questions are best left unanswered.
The name Mary Kelly is certainly known to those already familiar with the Ripper's unspeakably evil deeds, but From Hell is a fictional account of his bloody rampage, adapted from the graphic novel by Alan Moore, so do not presume to have more knowledge of these events than the good inspector! While each of the gruesome murders are accurately depicted, the story has been embellished to include Inspector Abberline's supernatural powers of deduction and, of course, a love story. Hooray for Hollywood!
All jest aside, the story does take one of the more widely held theories toward the Ripper's true identity, as well as speculative insight into his method and madness, and expands on them with a great amount of macabre irony and style. From Hell never shys away from depicting the gory details of the infamous killings, whether it be through the blood splattered slayings themselves or through colorful descriptive dialogue after the fact. Be warned, the morbid tone of this film is fairly unrelenting and not for the weak of stomach.
Where From Hell falls short is with the character of Mary Kelly, as played by Heather Graham. I could be wrong, but it seems that the combination of Heather Graham's uncontrollably cute looks of wide-eyed innocence with those of the average 19th century British whore just don't belong together!
In addition, there is a rather feeble attempt to give From Hell something that approaches a happy ending. Yes, you read correctly. Perhaps those at the studio saw an early cut and thought it was all too depressing. Why didn't they add some rainbows and puppy dogs while they were at it? Otherwise, the audience may leave the theatre believing that this story was tragic! We can't have that now, can we?
So, other than the fact that Mary Kelly looks like a displaced cheerleader, and that the ending is far too warm and fuzzy, From Hell delivers a solid amount of monstrous murder and mayhem. Looking for a good fright? This one's straight from you-know-where!
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