Tuesday, April 8, 2014

From Hell ★★★

    "From Hell" is a 2001 film that centers on the inexplicable murders that terrorized the fog enshrouded streets of late nineteenth-century London. This film is loosely based on the graphic novel of the same name written by Alan Moore. Ultimately, this fictionalized account, which follows the events and slayings of Jack the Ripper, will frighten and intrigue until the final curtain falls.

    Our film begins on the cobblestone streets of the Whitechapel district of London circa 1888. The camera guides us through numerous dreary filled images until it rests on the pale face of Mary Kelly--a female prostitute who lives and works in this impecunious district of England. Subsequently, Kelly and her circle of associates witness the kidnapping of Ann Crook, a friend and once prostitute herself. This event will coincide with the first of many killings targeted at these street level female workers, which puts the city on edge.

    These new and rather gruesome murders eventually gain the attention of Frederick Abberline, the local Whitechapel Police Inspector. Abberline is an eccentric man who spends his time in smoke-filled opium dens and downing glasses of Absinthe that have been laced with Laudanum. The effects of these intoxicants allow Abberline to succumb to "visions," which detail these grisly homicides and foreshadow events yet to occur. After enlisting the help of the royal family's physician, Sir William Gull, to aid in his quest to learn the identity of the murderer, Abberline discovers that it will take his brilliant investigative mind and a "trust no one" mentality to unveil the killer and restore peace to the streets of London.

    The performances in this film are a testament to the continuity and credibility that the actors portraying the characters have presented over the course of their careers. However, they lack the heart and soul that this film desperately needs which would ultimately make it a must seeJohnny Depp portrays Frederick Abberline, who was one of the most important investigators in the real life homicides caused by the notorious Jack the Ripper. Depp is a fine actor and displays his best qualities on-screen with an eloquent delivery of dialogue and mannerisms. Abberline may seem like a daft and utterly reckless human being, whose only ambition is to gain a release from everyday life. (This was an aspect of the film that the original writer of the fiction at hand, Alan Moore, discredits entirely.) Nevertheless, Depp is an essential component of the positives that brim from this story, and his performance is justifiably the sole reason to watch.

    The supporting performances lack the intrigue that surrounds the character of Abberline although they deserve an honorable mention. Heather Graham brings her illustrious career into the fold with her portrayal of the one-dimensional character of Mary Kelly. If you are familiar with the actual events of these slayings, then you will recognize her name as the last on a short list of victims and for being the most revolting murder of the crimes. Graham essentially guides the plot and dialogue in the direction it needs to go--and although she becomes the love interest of Abberline--it is very much short-lived. The role of Sir William Gull, which is also an element of the real Jack the Ripper case, is played by Ian Holm. Holm is a distinguished British actor who brings a certain sense of wisdom and maturity to the production, and it enriches the overall experience.

    This film essentially proceeds as a horror picture, which puts the viewer into a "who will die next" mode of reception. "From Hell" is not a film for the weak stomached, as there are many repulsive and grotesque images that are intended to give a realistic depiction of these murder scenes. At length, this is an interesting perspective into one of the darker moments in human history, even if it is a fictionalized account.
    Jack the Ripper's identity will virtually never be known, and the debate is destined to linger in the minds of anyone who remotely has an interest in this portion of history. The conclusion is dissatisfying to say the least, and this film would have been better served with a focus on the behind the scenes investigations that boggled some of the most brilliant minds of any nineteenth-century police force. Yet, there is a certain attraction to these dark and decadent filled streets of London. It is only natural that we, as human beings, become enticed by these spine-chilling tales of mystery and murder, even if unpleasant thoughts are inevitable.

No comments:

Post a Comment