Written by Terry Hayes & Rafael Yglesias
Directed by The Hughes Brothers

Running Time: 2:02

Rated R
for strong violence/gore, sexuality, language and drug content

Johnny Depp
as Inspector Abberline

Heather Graham
as Mary Kelly

and featuring...
Robbie Coltrane
Ian Holm
Paul Rhys
Joanna Page
Bryon Fear
Ian McNeice
Sophia Myles
Ian Richardson

Buy From Hell - Double Sided at AllPosters.com
From Hell - Double Sided

Buy From Hell - Faces (Double Sided) at AllPosters.com
From Hell - Faces (Double Sided)

Buy Heather Graham at AllPosters.com
Heather Graham

Buy Johnny Depp at AllPosters.com
Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp and Heather Graham star in From Hell a movie based on the first popular serial killer, Jack the Ripper. Both stylish and brutal in its portrayal of violence, From Hell is a great piece of filmmaking by the Hughes Brothers.

Depp stars as Inspector Abberline, an opium addict who has the ability to 'see' things. When under the spell of opium, Abberline has visions of murder that has gained him both the respect of some co-workers, and the distain of others. When a prostitute is found dead on the streets of Whitechapel, Abberline is the man for the job. Soon after the first girl is killed, another and then another are found murdered. But more than that, they are ripped apart, with vital organs cut from their body. All the girls were friends, including Mary Kelly (Heather Graham), a young girl from the shores of Ireland. Abberline surmises that the killer is someone educated, someone who has medical training, and someone killing for a purpose. That purpose, that reason is what leads him down a dark path of corruption and cover-up, a trail that could lead all the way to Her Majesty The Queen. But Abberline must find the killer and stop him, before he kills all 6 friends, including the woman Abberline has falled for, young Miss Kelly.

Set in 19th century England, the movie was shot in Prague, which apparently looks more like 19th century England than England itself does these days. The scenery was very impressive and helped the movie achieve a very dark and mysterious atmosphere. From Hell played more like a dark who-dun-it rather than straight horror film, with the story leaving you guessing as to who the Ripper might be until almost the very end. At times the plot seemed to get convoluted, with a lot of people coming in and out of the story, forcing you to keep each character in the back of your head for later retrieval. It should also be noted that this 're-telling' of the Jack the Ripper story does not profess to be THE story of the Ripper, but one comic book creator's vision of what might have been. But the way the movie played out was very engrossing and kept me interested throughout.

Johnny Depp once again does a wonderful job in a strange, quirky kind of role. While he could easily hop onto a big budget film that would make him a worldwide star, Depp continues to take interesting roles in smaller films that help him master the craft of acting. The role of the Inspector however could have been more interesting if the writers had allowed the audience to get to know his story a little more. We find out that his young wife and child died during childbirth, but other than that, all we know is that he has visions when he smokes opium. Heather Graham as the prostitute seemed almost out of place in this world, with her bright blue eyes shining in the darkness. While the other whores had disheveled, dirty faces and a downtrodden view of the world, Mary Kelly always had a shine in her eye and a hope in her soul. While Graham did a fine job, I think an actress with less good looks but with the same star power would have been a better choice for the role. The supporting cast, lead by the ever-popular Robbie Coltrane (soon to be seen in the highly anticipated Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is always a joy to see, and I'm sorry he's not in more mainstream American films. Although with the Potter film on the horizon, we shall soon be seeing him everywhere.

The look and feel of From Hell, as I mentioned earlier, played an important role in the overall experience. Kept very dark and brooding, the Hughes Brothers managed to make the audience feel the horror of what was happening to the innocent ladies. The Ripper would come suddenly from the shadows of an abandoned building, and the sounds of his knives could be heard cutting through the air, landing with a thud on the body. The music would swell when needed, and the heartbeat of the Inspector when he would see his visions was felt throughout the theater. This is one of the cases where the scenery and the intricate direction of the film was more important than the actors on screen. The Hughes Brothers, in only their third feature film, have done a tremendous job grabbing the audience and keeping them in the palms of their hands until the very end.

So overall I enjoyed From Hell. It was a lot darker and more thought-provoking than I had anticipated, but I found myself involved in the story from the beginning, and engrossed throughout. Not your typical Halloween-time slasher/horror film, From Hell is more of a thinking man's thriller/mystery that was a very well made film.

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reviewed 10/20/01

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