Review Date: October 16, 2001
Director: The Hughes Brothers
Writer: Terry Hayes, Rafael Yglesias
Producers: Don Murphy, Jane Hamsher, Kevin Messick
The theory in this film is based on the graphic novel "From Hell" written by Alan Moore and presents a compelling story, which despite being a little Oliver Stone-ish, did manage to tie up all of its loose ends quite nicely, and present us with an entertaining bowl of mayhem, sexual depravity, drug usage, insanity, murders and love? Yes, the Brothers even managed to slip a little "love" story in here, and despite not truly being developed, I guess it could've been much worse and taken up more time than was provided already. That's right, there's no real need to put any "romance" in a film about a mass murderer! But that aside, you gotta give up the props to actor extraordinaire Johnny Depp, who once again possesses the strength in character and flawless acting abilities, to center this movie all the way through. Sure, he's just playing a less goofier version of his Ichabod Crane character from SLEEPY HOLLOW, but he does it so well and even added a Michael Caine accent to his mixed bag of tricks in this one. I was also surprised at how little Heather Graham annoyed me in this film (I was sure that her presence would ruin this movie, but she was fine) and how little the dreams/fantasies of Depp's character had to do with the film's development (from what I had seen in the trailer, I thought the filmmakers were going to make this the crux of the story, but thankfully, it wasn't).
On the downside, the film doesn't really explain the whole Freemasons cult organization real well and lacks character development. But then again, a story about the most mysterious serial killer of all-time is probably not the ideal spot for character refinement. I mean, the less I knew about each person, the more suspicious I became of each one's motives, reasons, etc... In fact, I was actually quite surprised by who was presented as the killer in the end, and that was in part, due to the distance to which I'd been held from the film's characters...or am I giving the filmmakers too much credit for something that might not have been their intention? Perhaps. Overall, this is an extremely creepy production, with glorious cinematography (reminiscent of Coppola's DRACULA and Burton's SLEEPY HOLLOW), a grim score and solid acting. But it's not for everyone. Some may be utterly repulsed by the gory particulars of these tragic events, and even though the murders aren't shown as graphically as you might think, there's enough here to send the squeamish right out the doors. But I for one love movies that blend their eclectic visual style with an interesting mystery and palpable, gothic atmosphere, and this flick is just that and plenty more! And God knows that I will certainly not be surrendering the burnt image of Jack the Ripper's haunting cape silhouette and gleaming silver knife from my mind anytime soon...brrrrr!