Published on June 1st, 2008 | by simeon0
Jack the Ripper, one of the most notorious and yet mysterious figures every to emerge from history. A cold, and ruthless killer, who not only murdered several prostitutes, but also mutilated the bodies in ways that had never been seen before, and have rarely been seen since. The very name conjures up images of horror, rain falling on cobblestones, gaslights, and fog filled nights of fear that befell the Whitechapel district of London in 1888.
The Ripper was the first serial killer to gain international notoriety and to become famous via the papers as his legend and stories grew with each grisly victim. The people of London were shocked, and the poor people and especially the prostitutes were outraged that nothing was being done by what they saw as a disinterested upper class, as the poor lived in fear of being the Rippers next victim.
The murder spree of 5 prostitutes was shocking not so much in that the ladies were killed, but that each one was killed silently and in a vicious manner, and each murder was even more grisly and savage than the one before. Oddly just as quickly as the Ripper’s deadly spree started, it ceased and the Ripper was never to be heard from again. What remained was one of the greatest mysteries in history and numerous theories abound as to who the Ripper was, and what the motivations behind his crime were.
There have been numerous movies and books over the years that have looked into the Ripper, in fact, there have been more books written on Jack the Ripper than on all the US Presidents combined. One movie, “Time After Time” even went so far as to pose that the Ripper escaped justice by fleeing in a time machine built by H.G. Wells.
Thankfully, in the new film “From Hell” the Hughes brothers remained faithful to the historical facts and give viewers a modern tale of the Ripper that chills, and delivers an effective story and provides some interesting takes on the Ripper and his motivations.
The story tells of 6 working girls, who are down on their luck, they are being threatened by a local thug and his men to pay him a Pound a week or be maimed or killed. The working girls fear how they will get the money to pay him, much less earn enough from selling themselves for food and shelter.
Before long, one of the girls is found dead. She has had her throat cut, and has been mutilated in ways that sicken and shock even the medical examiners that are sent in. There are no clues and no suspects and the police officials are interested in keeping this matter quiet and getting the case taken care of. Into the investigation comes Inspector Fred Abberline (Johnny Depp), a gifted yet troubled man who has lost his family but is known for his visions that he has when he is taking opium and other drugs. Sgt. Peter Godley (Robbie Coltrane) assists Abberline, a quote spouting man who is loyal to Abberline and determined to help the inspector solve the case.
Shortly after the discovery of the first victim, a second victim is found and Abberline is drawn closer to the investigation as he has seen this woman in one of his visions. He also makes a discovery between the victims that leads him to a theory that shocks his superiors and threatens to upset the social balance of England.
The investigation leads Abberline to Mary Kelly (Heather Graham), a pretty working girl who was friends with the murdered lady and whose friends seem to be the targets of the killer. Mary has information related to one of her friends being involved with a man who turns out to be related to be part of the Royal family, but in order to protect herself, her friends, and the child her friend fathered with this man, she keeps quiet. Eventually Abberline earns her trust and he struggles to find the killer while battling all manner of foes including those in his own office, and his growing feelings for Mary.
Things take a turn for the unexpected when a prominent physician to the Royal Family, Sir William Gull( Ian Holm), not only provides Abberline with information that indicates the killer is an educated and professional man, and likely a Dr, as well as some shocking information about the Royal family that if leaked, would not only put his life in danger, but would unravel the Royal family.
What follows is a gripping and enticing tale of love, murder, and mystery, as Abberline seeks to stop the killings, protect Mary and her friends, and fight through the obstacles that are presented to him by prominent members of society and his own department.
The film was directed by Albert and John Hughes who burst onto the scene with “Menace II Society” and the recent “American Pimp” while at first “From Hell” seems a departure from their works that are often set in the ghetto, the filmmakers noted that the Whitechapel area was very much a ghetto for the time and the people their faced many of the same issues for survival that people in similar locations face today.
The direction and pacing is crisp and the scenery and costumes are first rate. The film was shot in the Czech Republic and since many of the Victorian buildings are no longer in place in England, sets had to be built in the fields near Prague. The results are fantastic and the visuals of the movie add to the somber and menacing tone. The cast is first rate and Depp and Graham are fantastic in their roles as they play the parts with conviction yet never try to overplay the roles or let their characters become larger than the story as a whole. Coltrane is fantastic as he brings toughness, wisdom and compassion to his role of Godley, and is a trusted and loyal companion to Abberline. While the film is violent, it is not as gratuitous as the characters explain many films of the day and much of the brutality rather then presented to the audience in gory detail. That being said, there is still plenty of gore to the film, but the film does a great job in showing the brutality but restraining the gore as what is imagined is far worse than what is often shown.
The film is a very effective drama and a gripping look into one of the darkest chapters in human history. The title of the film comes from a note written by the Ripper where he wrote that his location is from Hell. Easily one of the better films of the year and a very entertaining and well-made film, “From Hell” is a must see.
4.5 stars out of 5