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From Hell Review

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by AVForums Oct 23, 2007 at 12:00 AM

    From Hell Review
    Based loosely on the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell, From Hell tells the story of Inspector Frederick Abberline and his hunt for the notorious Whitechapel murderer dubbed Jack The Ripper...

    Most of the story is centred around the old theory that Prince Albert married a street girl called Annie Cooke after fathering her child. Annie is subsequently kidnapped by special branch and used as an experiment for a frontal lobotomy. Meanwhile, Annies friends, also street girls of the time, start turning up dead, one by one. However, these aren't normal run of the mill murders. Each body is mutilated in a different way - some with internal organs removed.

    Inspector Frederick Abbeline (played by Johnny Depp) has had a troubled few months. His wife died giving birth to their child. What happened to the child is not covered in the film - but to console himself, Abberline turns to Opium and the alternate world it gives him. Whilst high on the drug, the inspector claims to have visions and it's in one of these visions that he sees the Rippers first victim...

    Investigating the murder, Inspector Abberline interviews Annies remaining friends, including Mary Kelly (played by Heather Graham), a flame haired unfortunate who seems to want a way out of her dismal life. Meanwhile, the girls are being threatened by the Nicholls boys, a gang that really did exist in Victorian East London when it was the most destitute part of the country. The gang want a cut of the money that the girls are making or they will inflict a punishment of their own - and the heat for the murders turns naturally towards the Nicholls gang.

    Abberline has his own theory which ends up involving the royal family directly, the Masons and Special Branch. Just about every rumour that has spread about Jack The Ripper in the 110 years since the terrible murders is used here to try and twist the story...
    You will notice that I said at the beginning of this review that the movie is loosely based on the graphic novel. In the book, Abberline was a hard working good honest police man and not an hallucinating junkie at all. There was a character that had visions called Robert Lees, but he seems to have disappeared from the story altogether in this adaptation and his character entwined with Depps.

    There are so many twists and turns in this movie that it's more of a whodunit than a horror. Depp copes adequately with what he is given and his English accent is not quite the polished article in the later Pirate movies. There are glimpses of the Hollywood gold that Depp would prove to be in later years, however, as he toils with his feelings for Mary Kelly and the guilt over his departed wife. He puts on a brave face as each woman is dismembered - it appears that he has seen it all before. Maybe it was in his drugged up state?.

    Heather Graham portrays Mary Kelly as the poor unfortunate who really shouldn't be there. Her English accent has a touch of the Dick Van Dyke's about it and her character isn't as believable as it could be. When she's pinned up against the wall by one of the Nicholls gang for example, there doesn't seem to be an ounce of fear in her. Maybe that's the way it's supposed to be - but for me, it's not really believable.

    Other turns of note would be Robbie Coltrane as Sergeant Peter Godley, Abberlines saviour in some cases and Jason Flemying as the unfortunate driver, John Netley. In my opinion, Flemying is one of Englands hidden gems and has a star making performance in him just waiting to burst out. Maybe the right script will come along one day...
    As a stand alone film, taking away all comparisons to the graphic novel, From Hell isn't a bad movie at all. The attention to detail in the Victorian sets is spot on and the historical nods are pretty accurate. Fans of the novel were up in arms when this movie was released - as was Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell. Just one too many changes by the directors The Hughes Brothers. Because of this, the movie was a flop at the cinema but has found a bit of a cult following since on DVD and now on Blu-ray disc. A Johnny Depp movie a flop eh...? Wouldn't happen today surely...