Volume 95, Issue 29

Wednesday, October 24, 2001
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This movie a hell of a ripping good time

Stochansky solo set a rarity

Weir in for a good time tonight

Disc of the week

This movie a hell of a ripping good time

From Hell

Johnny Depp, Heather Graham, Ian Holm, Robbie Coltrane

Directed By:
Allen and Albert Hughes

Three 1/2 stars
(out of five)

By Chad Finkelstein
Gazette Staff

Chances are, From Hell isn't what you think it is.

After watching the previews for the new Jack the Ripper thriller, you may have a few expectations.

You may think either it's a straight-up action movie about a detective on the intense trail of an infamous slasher, putting the pieces of the gruesome puzzle together or you may expect it to be a standard horror movie.

You could believe From Hell is an historical movie – the real story behind the mystery of Jack the Ripper – but then again, perhaps you see Johnny Depp, hunting for an elusive killer packaged by the slick visuals and think, Sleepy Hollow 2.

From Hell is none of these and all of these.

Prostitutes – or "unfortunates," as the upper-class suavely refers to them – are being mysteriously butchered with specific incisions.

Depp plays the chief inspector trying to comprehend the method behind the madness of London's greatest threat at the end of the 19th century. Aided by the police force, Depp slides into absinthe and opium-induced trips, guided by his eerily accurate intuition, in order to understand the killer's motives and figure out where he'll strike next.

Without giving too much away, the audience only knows what the inspector knows. The closer he gets to revealing the killer's motive and identity, the more inescapable his descent into the physical, psychological and social underworlds of London and the ravages of his own mind becomes.

This descent transcends the grotesque and puts the audience in a position of serious discomfort. Jack the Ripper is a vicious mastermind, each stroke of his knife indicative of his sadistic mission.

His victims are mutilated without mercy to the degree that you become jealous of the on-screen bystanders who look away when the disfigurations become too repulsive for them to bear.

The audience, on the other hand, gaze right into the slits, slashes and gashes, as filmmakers Allen and Albert Hughes relish in sporadically springing them on us when we might not expect them to.

Viewers beware – this can be tough to stomach, but From Hell is worth seeing.

It is a stylish and slick movie with moody and effective visuals, such as a blood-red sky that overcasts London, as well as the fluidity with which the camera moves to take you underground and in and out of people's minds.

Furthermore, the story develops one of many reputable theories about who Jack the Ripper really was.

From Hell is a twisted puzzle, testing your patience and intuition as you struggle to solve it. However, for all the ingenuity in the puzzle, there is sometimes a lack of clarity.

The characters all speak with very thick Cockney accents, some fake, some real. For some reason, they choose to speak faster and much more jumbled at climatic moments of revelation, making certain points of the movie difficult to connect. Because of this confusion, the audience may be left wondering how the film's conclusion came about.

Despite its flaws, this is a "hell" of a movie. From Hell showcases Jack the Ripper's brutality and, in that sense, the horror and violence is not unnecessary.

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Copyright The Gazette 2001