From Hell

Directed by the Hughes Brothers (Allen and Albert)
Starring: Johnny Depp, Heather Graham, Annabelle Apsion, Katrin Cartlidge, Susan Lynch, Leslie Sharp, Jason Flemyng, Robbie Coltrane, Ian Holm.
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence/gore, sexuality, language and drug content.

Review by Evelyn Gildrie-Voyles <evy@filmhead.com>
October 27, 2001

I was both looking forward to and dreading seeing From Hell. This is because I recently read and enjoyed Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's comic series/graphic novel of the same name. I knew that no one would make a movie that was faithful to this dark, disturbing, slow, and plodding comic. Moore's From Hell has no hero, no one is dashing, there is no "man of action" but the killer, and even he likes to talk a lot about theory and history before getting down to business. Big production companies just don't make movies with characters like that.

I thought that everything would be changed and only crap would remain. I was both right and wrong. The movie is not very faithful to the book as far as the story line and character personalities are concerned. The killer is still the same and does what he does for the same reasons, but practically everyone else is different (some only slightly different while others, like Inspector Abberline, have a complete personality makeover) and there are plenty of new characters. The movie is not lacking in heroes or strong moral judgements. The movie is faithful to the mood of the graphic novel, however. It remains, dark, disturbing, and slow. The movie is also wonderful. So if you liked the graphic novel and want to see the movie, do so but don't be too attached to the particulars of Moore and Campbell's creation.

In screenwriters Terry Hayes and Rafael Yglesias's version of From Hell, Inspector Abberline (Johnny Depp) is a clairvoyant opium addict who, with the help of the gruff but duty-bound Seargant Godley (Robbie Coltrane), has been appointed to solve the case of Jack the Ripper. While investigating the murders, Abberline falls in love with a young prostitute named Mary Kelly (Heather Graham), who was friends with Jack the Ripper's victims.

The movie really isn't about Abberline vs. Jack or the love story. It's about the seedy hypocrisy of Victorian London and it's marvelously well done. Congratulations to the entire tech staff, including, but not limited to, costume designer Kym Barrett, production designer Martin Childs, cinematographer Peter Deming, and art director Mark Raggett. The overall look of the movie is gorgeously slummy, dirty, and imposing all at once. As for the acting: Depp and Graham are good although I have seen them both do much better, but their roles aren't all that demanding. Robbie Coltrane as Godley, Ian Holm as Doctor William Gull, and Jason Flemyng as Jack the Ripper's coach man are all phenomenal, especially Flemyng. He manages to create a character who is both appallingly inhumane and strangely sympathetic.

A little warning about the movie: It assumes you are intelligent. You have to pay close attention to detail in order to follow what's going on. It's not quite Memento but it doesn't spoon-feed comprehension to you. It also isn't using violence to give you an adrenaline rush, so it's not an "exciting" film. It's just a good, gorgeous, bleak film.

Thank you, Hughes Brothers. I'm sorry I underestimated you. I'll never do it again.


For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
From Hell (2001)

Here's some merchandise for sale at Amazon.com
From Hell, a graphic novel by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell -- Paperback
From Hell: Original Motion Picture Score -- Compact Disc


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