From Hell (2001)

From_Hell_film

Genre: Horror, Drama

Cast: Johnny Depp, Heather Graham, Ian Holm

Synopsis: Psychic detective Frederick Abberline gets mixed up in the Jack the Ripper case and must bring the killer to justice in order to protect a cockney tart

You know how when you live in a place, you never do any of the things tourists do? I’m like that in London. Sure I’ve been to a few galleries and Borough Market is a must because everyone loves artisanal cheese and the sexy men who make said cheeses, but I haven’t done much else. I have not been to the Tower of London. I haven’t done either the Shard or the London Eye. I most definitely have not seen Buckingham Palace because I refuse to pay any attention to our inbred and impotent overlords. However, there is one touristy thing which I would love to do and one I have heard a lot of good things about: the Jack the Ripper tour.

I know it’s a gruesome chapter in London’s great history, but the whole Jack the Ripper thing does have an unusual and inordinate amount of sex appeal. I live near Whitechapel, where the murders took place, and some of the old Dickensian workhouse-like buildings remain. It’s funny walking past them: it’s like you’re walking through a living and breathing history. It’s as if the events of the past have stained the present. That’s one of the things I love most about London. It’s a city that does live and it does evolve, but the memories of the past are never far away. Plus, it gives writers and movie producers some great fodder.

Considering the sex appeal of the underlying history, you would expect a big production like From Hell to hammer the nail on the head. In some ways it does. In my mind, there is nothing more glamourous than Victorian opium den chic. I love it all: the black lacquer furniture, the Chinese lanterns and wall hangings, tin bath tubs, and those chaise lounges which are oh so great for swooning. Sometimes I wish I could visit a Victorian opium den but then I remember that opium is essentially heroin and is not, contrary to what a character in an Eileen Chang story will tell you, good for the liver. Oh well, at least weed isn’t that bad for you….and it’s GREAT for the lungs.

Unfortunately, any sex appeal in this movie is obliterated by the atrocious accents spouted by both Depp and Graham…..especially Graham. I admit, the English accent is a difficult thing to master, which is why I am so happy to have one by birth (it’s a major panty dropper in the US). Still, I’m sure that both Depp and Graham could have put more effort into it. Every sentence they utter has the cadence of someone scratching a plate with a knife and fork. However, a certain amount of humour can be derived from some of the things the characters are saying and the film does provide some great phrases to quote in real life such as: “Not with my old cunny I’ll be lucky to make four pence,” and “I can suck the Thames dry.” Great pick up line, that one.

From Hell is, in general terms, a bit of a disappointment but it feels like a diamond in the rough. It has moments of brilliance (the style and theme of London existing as a living and spiritual entity) but these are hampered by sub-par acting and the feeling that some things in this movie were rushed. I imagine that the graphic novel is a much more accomplished and detailed affair and, if anything, this film has encouraged me to take a look at it. Unfortunately, the book costs £25. I’ll have to take inspiration from the characters and start selling my cunny in Whitechapel to afford it.

High-lights:

  • Great style. If anything, the film has provided me with ideas on how to decorate my house when I win the lottery so as to buy one.
  • Interesting themes about London as a spiritual being.
  • Immensely quotable.

Downers:

  • Accents that are on a par with the ones in Dracula. Graham only gets it right once when she manages to say: “You’re going to take me into the gallery?” like a true Brit.
  • Too rushed in places.
  • Jewbello, Jewbella, Jewbellum……wut?

Summary:

From Hell is an interesting film that should appeal to fans of horror who enjoy a well-constructed plot and lavish style. Unfortunately, the film may prove unbearable for those who demand historical accuracy or stellar performances because this movie provides neither. If you want historical accuracy then go on the Jack the Ripper tour. Maybe I will see you there! I’ll be the one with red eyes asking if anyone wants a go for tuppence….like the bird lady in Mary Poppins.

5.5/10

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13 Comments

Filed under Drama, Horror, Meh

13 responses to “From Hell (2001)

  1. Abbi

    I actually went on the Jack the Ripper walk (brilliant) last weekend and then watched this film (pretty crap). Talk about coincidences…

  2. I probably liked it a bit more than you but thought it was definitely missing something. I liked the mood, sets and atmosphere, but that can only take you so far in a movie.

  3. Great post, average film. That said (once I managed to tune out the terrible accents) I quite enjoyed it, and have seen it a few times. I’ve never done a Ripper tour, but I did see a really good exhibition a few years back which covered Ripper-era London, the victims and all the Ripper suspects. Fascinating stuff.

    • Even though I think it’s a ‘meh’ film, I think I’ve seen it about ten times and I always go back to it. It’s a strange thing.

      I really wish I knew who was responsible for it. I feel like I should call in the scooby gang.

  4. I find this movie to be a guilty pleasure, I guess. I saw it in the theater and have watched it three or four times on video. Having said that, I know how a bad accent can frustrate a moviegoer because I’m from the American south, and everyone thinks they can do our accents. Sometimes I have to turn a movie off right away, depending on what else it has going for it, the minute the characters start speaking because it irritates me so badly.

  5. Excellent write-up! The graphic novel is immensely better than this, that’s for sure. Heather Graham is just the worst in every way.

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