Reviewbr> "Well, he has that kind of cleverness you'll sometimes find in the middle classes. A cheap sort of intelligence, but effective nevertheless." - Sir Charles Warren
Inspector Frederick Abberline is addicted to various mind altering substances, and while under the influence has visions of murder most foul. It's London 1888 and Jack the Ripper is about in the working class slum of Whitechapel hunting down prostitutes and butchering them with grim precision. Abberline, who is being primed for bigger things, and Sergeant Peter Godley, are dragged into the investigation with Abberline making discoveries at the murder scenes that might have far reaching consequences.
Mary Kelly and her loose group of friends are prostitutes in Whitechapel eking out a living full of misery and depravation, being preyed on by the gangs of the era. It would appear the Ripper has targeted them and is tracking them down one by one, murdering individuals with a hint of ceremony in the madness. Can Abberline with the help of Kelly unmask Jack the Ripper before he finishes his deadly work? And why is special branch involved up to their necks?
I guess the first question most people are going to ask is whether or not From Hell is factual or purely fiction. Two theories from over a hundred "Ripperology", yes it's an area of study, conflicting theorems is interwoven in the movie, mainly due to it combining the still arcane rites of the Freemasons and a conspiracy that reaches the highest levels of British power at the time. For sure the five key victims of the Ripper are presented in the movie, ((Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly). And the various letters and graffiti Jack wrote, to apparently bait the Police, are presented. However the actual plot is purely speculation and hence fiction, we have no idea who Jack was or what his motives were. Considering at the most the Ripper might have clocked up eleven victims, the myth continues to intrigue and raise debate. So in short, it's fiction shrouded in actual facts, a sort of "based on true events" if you like. Let's crack on here kids.
The Hughes Brothers presented a wonderful vision, where the canvas of a fog bound London tells a story of grim life, murder most foul, and machinations in the highest levels of British society where the working class are viewed as nothing more than fodder. While modern day Yuppies might like the grunge factor of inner City life, even they would be put off by the grimy streets, sinister characters, and sheer degradation the Brothers Hughes created for 1888 Whitechapel. You aren't likely to run across a French Bistro here folks, more likely pick pockets, drunks, and low lives. Sort of like Macquarie Fields, Sydney really. I was more than impressed with the visions of decay thrown my way and dug the atmosphere the Hughes Brothers created, with Jack appearing out of the fog, knife in hand, to slaughter the unwary. Its great stuff, From Hell is a visual treat that should have all true movie fans high fiving the shades of Jack's victims in appreciation. This isn't the usual plastic vista of Boredwood dark genre fodder, this is the real deal, grime, depression, and forever fascinating.
The Hughes brothers do the unthinkable, they create a grim serious horror movie that drips decay and murder
Script wise, and this offering to the Ripper mythos is exceedingly well written besides a couple of plot stumbles, I was in seventh heaven. Where else are you likely to run across a conspiracy between the Queen of England, Special Branch, corrupt Doctors, and the Freemasons, versus a group of prostitutes and London's Whitechapel Police force! Awesome stuff, the movie is dripping with upper class contempt for their subjects, as well as a mob likely to hit the streets at a moment's notice to sort this Ripper thing out. The dialogue in the main kept me rocking, and for sure I was following the conspiracy and Abberline's uncovering of that conspiracy like a wild thing. Where was Fox Mulder when you needed him! Just remember this one is a tragedy and you'll be right.
However as stated a couple of plot pitfalls that had me stumbling from the edge of the pit of sheer cinematic bliss. The love angle between Abberline and Mary Kelly came out of the blue, didn't ring true, and really didn't go anywhere. They should have junked this one for a developing friendship rather than going doggy style at the big "L", didn't work Hughes Bros. And I guess the other issue I did have was the overly large numbers of characters. I got lost in places as to who the hell was who, for example the dude killed when the carriage overturned, have no idea who he was. But okay minor issues, we're still talking a dark serial killer rampage that puts recent offerings from Boredwood to shame with its relentless atmosphere and exposition of one of history's most notorious killers.
Guess I forgot to mention the costumes and props added to the whole realism thing, the Producers and Designers working on this flick deserve a standing ovation; everything spelt realism and an eye to detail. It was heaven sent kids, a feast for those of us sick and tired of modern American suburbia.
While the movie is rocking along, keeping the cinematic faithful happy with their popcorn, gorehounds should be snapping at the leash. The Hughes brothers mix in some pretty explicit actual photographs of the victim's bodies with some blood and guts, they aren't pulling punches here, and hit Tobe Hooper circa Texas Chainsaw Massacre levels of making the audience believe they are seeing more than they actually are. If slaughterhouse rock isn't your thing then either toughen up Princess or get the frack out! I thought the levels of gore, we're talking a small box with half a human kidney in it, matched the sheer desperate filthy area of the murders, any other approach would have rung in as false. The Hughes Bros make things work for them with the audience in for a pretty grim time of it. Got to love that stuff, no wonder the pretend horror crowd didn't dial into this slice of cinematic anarchy.
I don't care what anyone says Johnny Depp (Abberline) for mine is one of the true actors of the modern error. The dude nails his role of Police Inspector prepared to do what has to be done to get the job done, that is also fallible and prone to substance abuse. Deep freaking nails it, from "not quite there" drug addict, to razor sharp police investigator able to piece together a crime scene.
Ably supporting Mr Depp are ScaryMinds favourite Robbie Coltrane (Sergeant Peter Godley), the dude always rocks, and Heather Graham (Mary Kelly) who lights the screen up in a performance, while slightly left field, that is still commanding and captivating. The rest of the cast rock it out big time with some very solid performances that sell the movie.
Dropping one heck of a chilling score on us Trevor Jones matches the gruesome and grungy nature of the Hughes Bros visuals. Quite the accomplishment for those into the soundscape of movies, possible worth a CD purchase I'm thinking.
T&A isn't on the ball with this movie, though the gals can rock out to one Mr Depp being shirtless. We got the boobs, we get the full frontal, we get gal on gal action, but none of it could be called a tissue moment. Don't dial into this one if after quick titillation.
The movie may move a tad slow for some, be a tad gruesome for others, or not have the teens in peril that the pretend mob want. What it does have however is a solid serious nature that should appeal to true horror fans. The Hughes Brothers have pretty much made a masterpiece that deserved wider support than what it got from the brain dead zombie hordes invading the multiplex each weekend. Definitely a descent into the hell of London slums in the 19th century, book yourself an opium den today and chase that dragon yo. Recommended to those who like serious horror that takes no prisoners, Jack be nimble.
So this was my first review off Blu-Ray, yes got a new funky player and everything. Got to say I'm not seeing much difference from a DVD connected through HDMI. None of the extensive extras or interweb guff they promised us in the adverts was happening, we're been lied to again folks. I'll keep tackling the new format and see if there aren't some advantages, definitely not noting any in sound or picture to be honest. From first impressions BR is simply another attempt to hype some extra cash out of punters, will not be double dipping any movies I already have.