Many people have been intrigued by the notorious Jack The Ripper case ever since it hit the headlines back in . The case of The Ripper is one of the most famous cases of mass murder in British history, not only for the manner in which the victims were killed by the fact that no one really knew who had committed the atrocities. And this is where From Hell comes in.
From Hell is a wonderful film. The Hughes Brothers (Menace to Society and Dead Presidents) fully immerse the viewer in the times and ways of Century ‘merry old England’. But unfortunately for a group of prostitutes, lead by Heather Graham, they are about to find out the reason why they say ‘don’t get in a car with a stranger’. Especially the ones with a brief case full of dissecting equipment.
Johnny Depp (does this guy ever stop making movies?!) is at it again. This time he has to master an English accent. For a guy born in Kentucky he does it very convincingly. With a cast full of respected English actors and actresses, Robbie Coltrane, Susan Lynch et al, Johnny Depp fits in unexpectedly well. Even more, he actually looks the part. If you didn’t know better you be forgiven in thinking that he was English in the first place.
On the other hand actress Heather Graham sticks out like a sore thumb. She is the only ‘beautiful’ prostitute. Her long even, clean hair and her smooth flawless face make her quite the opposite to her fellow ‘unfortunates’ and in fact the rest of the cast. Not to be blamed on her, more of a makeup department neglect. Although her accent isn’t as perfected as Depp’s she still plays the lead role with dignity and grace.
The film’s storyline is basic but effective. Inspector Aberline (Depp) is the inspector in charge of the Ripper case as it becomes dubbed. Peter Godley (played brilliantly by Robbie Coltrane) is there to help the Inspector with the case. Aberline calls on the help of a distinguished surgeon to help him with his quest to find the killer. Whilst all this is happening the group of prostitutes are trying to stay away from the men they owe money and (you could see it coming a mile off) Mary Kelly (Graham) falls for Aberline and a love story elevates between possible victim and cop that is saving her.One of the best aspects to the film is the use of some innovative camera shots and postproduction techniques. Mainly only used in key scenes, mostly when The Ripper attacks, the action is broken up by vivid color washes of red and green silhouetting Jacks actions. The camera, not showing his identity (hence giving the film an actual point), focuses on his hands when he is killing. His white gloves give neutral and an assumed safe backdrop, whilst this is then contrasted by the knife and crimson blood.
This is where some people will have downfalls with the movie. This is not your typical serial killer stalk and slash. It is something quite different. Casual moviegoers will tire of the build up story with the group of prostitutes, or as Inspector Aberline refers to them Unfortunates. This is all part of the storyline, the insecurity of the girls; it’s there to show the dark and dank environment of London at the times. Because the film is very classy and sophisticated there is no need for the profuse flowing of blood. Don’t get me wrong, it is there, one part in particular stands out at the end of the film when he takes out the heart of one of the victims; it has to be seen to be believed. The directorial idea was to emphasize the impact that The Ripper had on the London and British society not just the impact that he had on his victims.
The film stays as close to the truth as possible whilst still making it entertaining. The coroner passes out at the sight of the victims with huge wholes in them and missing internal organs. The street names remain true to the time and even the name of the prostitutes are the same as three centuries prior. The only part of the film that is different to the reality is that Jack The Ripper is identified. Whether this could have been a possibility as to the real Rippers identity remains to be seen.
Finally there is a motion picture that does the tale of Jack The Ripper creditable justice. Johnny Depp is flawless (as usual) and looks at home in ’s London. This tale brings a new spin on the old (and sometimes tired) story of England's most notorious serial killer. In a way this is a simple homage to the age of Hammer Horror. The setting is the same and the tone matches that of the old flicks like Jekyll and Hide and Dracula’s. If you are looking for a classy, atmospheric film then check this out.