From Hell


Directed by: Albert Hughes, Allen Hughes
Written by:Terry Hayes, Rafael Yglesias
Starring: Johnny Depp, Heather Graham, Ian Holm, Ian Richardson, Robbie Coltrane
Released: February 14, 2002
Grade: B+

A quick history lesson for those not update with their famous serial killers.  An unknown murdered was responsible for the death of five prostitutes in London 1888.  He was dubbed Jack The Ripper as many of his victims had organs and body parts removed.  He was never caught and thus never identified.  This probably only added to the mystique that was Jack The Ripper.

From Hell is a fictitious interpretation of Jack’s story.  Inspector Fred Abberline (Depp) has been called upon by Peter Godley (Coltrane) to investigate the first killing.  Fred has a unique ability to see into the future and with police left stunned by the killer’s ferocity, he may be their strongest chance to crack the case.

Hunting for clues, Fred meets Mary Kelly (Graham), a prostitute working the night streets.  Some of her friends have been victims to the Ripper and her insight is valued information.  Further, Mary keeps appearing in Fred’s visions - perhaps a sign she is to become a victim...

Johnny Depp has a genre to himself.  Perhaps the only similarity in his choice of roles is that they are all dissimilar.  Contrast his works in Edward Scissorhands, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Ed Wood, Dead Man, Donnie Brasco, Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas and Sleepy Hollow and you’re looking at one of the world’s most under appreciated actors.  He can take on any character and his accent in From Hell is ideally suited.

The era is amazingly captured by directors Albert and Allen Hughes (Menace II Society).  They have strong support from cinematographer Peter Deming.  It’s a gloomy setting and the violence is disgustingly grotesque (bordering an R-rating) but their artistry makes it hypnotically interesting.  There’s a wonderful use a shadows and concealing camera angles to keep the killer’s identity hidden.  Further, they tease the audience with brief glimpses of the mutated corpses (sounds charming I know).

An unfortunate flaw of the flick is that the identity of the killer in the film is too obvious.  A friend recognised the voice of the killer from the trailer and pinpointed exactly who it was.  So as it turned out, I knew who Jack The Ripper was (at least in the film) all the way through.  Hopefully others won’t pick it quite so easily.

I have to chuckle quietly having seen this film on its day of release which also happened to be Valentine’s Day.  You’d think the studios could of offered something with a lesser body count.  Oh well, to hell with those who aren’t interested.