from hell | the hugh brothers | terry hayes | rafael yglesias | johnny depp | heather graham | ian holm | based on | graphic novel | alan moore | eddie campbell | mystery | thriller | united states | czech republic | united kingdom | robbie coltrane | jack the ripper
Film: From Hell
Director: The Hugh Brothers (Albert and Allen Hughes)
Writer: Terry Hayes and Rafael Yglesias
Starring: Johnny Depp, Heather Graham and Ian Holm
This was a movie that I remember when it came out, but at the time I wasn’t the biggest fan of Johnny Depp. I avoided it for awhile until I was working at Family Video and co-workers told me to check it out. Our disc in the store was damaged, they thought it was fixed so I took it home to test it. It still didn’t work, so it wasn’t until now that I saw it all the way through. Jaime had never seen it either and as a Depp fan, she wanted to. We sat down to watch it as I needed to see if for the Summer Challenge Series for the 2000s that I’m doing over on The Podcast Under the Stairs. The synopsis here is in Victorian-era London, a troubled clairvoyant police detective investigates the murders of Jack the Ripper.
We’re in London in the year 1888. The movie presents us with a group of prostitutes of Mary Kelly (Heather Graham), Dark Annie Chapman (Katrin Cartlidge), Liz Stride (Susan Lynch), Kate Eddowes (Lesley Sharp), Polly Nichols (Annabelle Apsion) and Martha Tabram (Samantha Spiro). Something I want to point out here is that this is a rough life. There weren’t a lot of prospects and these women are doing what they can to survive. To make it more difficult, McQueen (David Schofield) along with one of his men from the Nichols Street Gang tell the women they owe each owe a pound for protection. This group has another friend of Ann Crook (Joanna Page). She has a newborn baby and asks them to watch her for awhile so she can see her husband, Albert Sickert (Mark Dexter). They tell her about their run-in and they can’t do today. Ann tells them if they do, she will get Albert to pay what is owed.
Things take a turn though when Albert and her are making love, but they’re interrupted. Benjamin Kidney (Terence Harvey) along with his secret police takes the two into custody. Mary sees what happens and they don’t understand what is going on. They just know it can’t be good. They decide to take her child to Ann’s parents as they regroup.
Martha is then murdered that night. It is a brutal one where her labia are removed. This causes Sergeant Peter Godley (Robbie Coltrane) to seek out Inspector Frederick Abberline (Depp) from an opium den. After getting him sobered up as best as he can, they go to the crime scene. Frederick is known to have visions that help him solve cases. Many are skeptical to trust them, but he does get results.
Soon after, Polly is murdered. The imaginary is great as she is staring at an obelisk and we were someone speaking softly in verse. Frederick picks up almost immediately that there are two different killers. His investigation brings him and Sgt Godley to Mary and her friends. At first they don’t want to talk, but they tell them about the Nichols Gang along with their threat. Sgt Godley doesn’t necessarily believe it. There is a much bigger plot of what is going on here. It would cause a scandal as it leads Frederick to Sir William Gull (Ian Holm), a physician to the monarch, Dr. Ferral (Paul Rhys) who is a young promising surgeon that was accepted into the Freemasons and the true identity of Albert. The question though, who is Jack the Ripper and why is he targeting these specific prostitutes?
That’s where I want to leave my recap of the movie as I’m trying to give as much background to get you up to speed if you’ve not seen this or you haven’t for some time. I should also include here that I’ve read the graphic novel and much like this movie, there’s a lot of information that is given to us.
While watching this, I tried my best to not spoil things to Jaime while giving her some of the insight that I had into the case here. That is something that I really want to give credit to Terry Hayes and Rafael Yglesias in bringing to life the graphic novel from Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell. I should also mention The Hughes Brothers as the directors with what I’m going to shift to now. There is a lot of real, factual information that was put into the From Hell graphic novel to the point where it is historically accurate. It is stated there are liberties taken to make it more interesting though. I think this movie does a really good at bringing that to life. I read that many of the crime scenes were made to match and I recall a sequence at the climax straight from the graphic novel. There is so much time and care taken into this, I have to give credit.
Even though not all of this is factual, I could see some of this being real. The movie does an excellent job of the setting with Victorian-era London. It feels and looks dirty. How hard of a life it is for these women to survive is another aspect there. Going along with this, we see that everyone looks down on the prostitutes who are just trying to survive, even though many will frequent them when they need to. It isn’t surprising that Burke and Hare could make a living like they did or that there would be cover-ups involving the police. It makes it even more believable when you have a group like the Freemasons that find their roots from the Knights Templar. I’m not saying that’s the truth of what really happened here, but you could see how it could for sure.
Before I go down a rabbit hole, I think we have some interesting characters. I don’t remember Frederick being like he is in this movie in the graphic novel. I think that Depp plays the role really well though. He just has that charismatic nature and quirky enough that I could see him using the drugs that he is. On top of that, he’s hurting. There have been a lot of bad cards dealt his way and he really just wants to help these women. Graham is quite attractive and I think she’s fine in this performance. Holm is really good in his role along with Coltrane, Jason Flemyng as the coachman Netley and the rest of the cast in my opinion.
Where I want to take this next would be the effects. What was really surprising to me is how brutal this movie gets at times. There is a cutting of a throat scene that I remember and just hearing about how these women are killed is quite horrific as well. Most of the deaths are off-screen, that is something to keep in mind, but we do get to glimpses of the aftermath. It works in a way where my imagination is allowed to fill things in. I’ve already spoken about the setting of the movie so aside from that, the cinematography does some interesting things that worked for me. I give credit there for sure and they did an excellent job on top of that making this feel like London of the era. It isn’t as good as some of the films of the past did with making it a character, but I could believe we are seeing events from then.
That’s where I think I’m going to leave this review. It is an excellent adaptation from the source material. I wanted to be vague to not spoil things, even though I’m not entirely sure this is how the graphic novel ended. It is also tough in that we truly don’t know who Jack the Ripper is. There’s an interesting mystery of this movie and I think moves at a good pace. I never get bored despite its two hour runtime which is good. The acting really brings these characters to life, shout-outs to Depp and Holm for sure. The effects were really good and I think that soundtrack fit for what was needed. If I did have issues, it was hard to figure out who some of the characters were. Other than that though, this is a really good movie in my opinion.
My Rating: 8 out of 10