From Hell (2001) – USA / R / 122 min / 6.8 IMDB / IMDB rank 1,882
By Roger Malcolm / Oct. 2012
No horror film list can be complete without including a story about the man that gave birth to the 20th-century, Jack the Ripper! Directed by The Hughes Brothers that brought us Menace II Society (1993) and the more recent The Book of Eli (2010), From Hell takes us back to those dark foggy English cobblestone streets where terror swept throughout London in the late 1880’s as prostitutes became the sport of an unknown killer.
We are introduced to an excellently-cast group of prostitutes. They are dirty, foul and everything you would expect from a 19th-century whore. They sleep tied to pews in a basement of a church and bathe themselves in a public drinking trough. Heather Graham plays the star of the horde, Mary Kelly, who is approached in an alley and threatened by two men that if she and her whore friends don’t pay up, the knife he shoots out from his sleeve like Travis Bickle’s gun in Taxi Driver will be her next customer.
The first murder occurs when one of our prostitutes, walking down the street, is pulled into a dark archway. All we see is a shiny knife in the darkness becoming drenched in blood, gleaming as it rapidly stabs up and down. Due to the bizarre way she is murdered, Scotland Yard gets their best man on the case. Introduced as an opium-smoking junkie that uses his drug-induced visions to see deeper into his cases, very much like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most notorious detective Sherlock Holmes. Johnny Depp smoothly smokes cigarettes as he plays the junkie, Inspector Frederick Abberline. He has such a problem that the Yard has assigned him his own Dr. Watson-like caretaker, played by Robbie Coltrane – most famous as Rubeus Hagrid in the Harry Potter films – to keep his nose to the ground like any good boarhound, I mean bloodhound.
The film is captivating with its quality production, complete with a rich authentic atmosphere, consisting of beautiful 19th-century London landscapes. From the thrilling sounds of horse-drawn carriages rumbling over cobblestone streets to nerve-rattling steel steps crashing down from underneath the carriage, we are guided through diverse horrors around every corner. Through mind-numbing lobotomies, modern-day-related conspiracies, and even the human curiosity himself Joseph Merrick (better known to the world as the Elephant Man), we become deeply submerged in the murky world of Jack the Ripper.
With an excellent tale of mystery, suspense and red herrings that will have you suspecting everyone as Jack the Ripper, From Hell is horror film production at its cutting-edge finest.
Best Death – After narrowly escaping the hands of Jack the Ripper only to be caught by his lackey, our poor unfortunate prostitute is held with her arms behind her, mouth covered, exposing the bare flesh of her neck. As she struggles, The Ripper brutally slices open her throat in full view spilling blood down her chest onto her already blood-red dress. She is dropped down in the misty rain-soaked street where hers legs kick as the life drains out of her.
Best Scene – In the climax of the film, a pair of horses gallop through the streets with our hero tied up and silenced in the back of a carriage. As he awaits his fate, the suspense is quickly built by the struggle for his life, ending with the carriage becoming overturned, causing the horses to drag it on its side. A must see.
“No man amongst you is fit to judge… the mighty art that I have wrought. Your rituals are empty oaths you neither understand nor live by. The Great Architect speaks to me. He is the balance where my deeds are weighed and judged… not you.”