‘From Hell’ Review: Hellishly Dumb

Posted in The Screening Room by - May 22, 2015

From Hell is based on the graphic novel of the same name by legendary writer, Alan Moore. I have not read the novel, so I can’t comment on the print to film changes. However, the dark visuals and twisted plot are indicative of Moore’s writing style. The plot follows Inspector Abberline (Johnny Depp), an opium addicted officer who has “visions” that lead him to solve seemingly unsolvable crimes as he tracks down Jack the Ripper in Victorian England. Heather Graham’s Mary Kelly leads the group of victimized prostitutes as they are privy to some dark secret of the crown prince of England. Sir William Gull (Ian Holm) acts as the medical consultant to Abberline as he investigates the killings, suspecting the killer to be of a medical background. 

Despite being nearly 15 years old, the film has a very dark and gothic aesthetic that works well. England looks dark, gloomy, and fascinating. The streets and set pieces are immersive and interesting. Even the violence is slick and stylish, albeit horrific. It’s super over the top, but it doesn’t scream realism either. One particular scene stands out as our “ripper” murders a prostitute in the dark, with the only visual cue being a silver knife enveloped in darkness going up and down, covered in more and more blood. The performances are also pretty great. Heather Graham is surprisingly believable as a Brit, and Depp’s Abberline is the emotional center of the film. I do wish they focused more on his addiction as a burden to his character rather than a convenient plot device, but this lends itself to his hallucinogenic dreams that lead him to solving cases. 

Unfortunately, the plot of the film, once everything is unraveled, is incredibly stupid. There are two plot lines at work: one involving the kidnapped and lobotomized friend of Heather Graham’s character and the actual killings. The story lines come together, and actually lead to the motivations of Jack the Ripper. However, the fact that almost every main character that wasn’t Abberline (including his own boss) is the member of the same secret society was too convenient and problematic. When the identity of Jack the Ripper is revealed, it’s a bit of a major twist that just boggled my mind in its abject stupidity. Granted, he’s a serial killer, so perhaps expecting a logical motive was too much to expect on my part. I couldn’t get over how unsatisfying his reveal and the ultimate conclusion of the film was. Plus, for some odd reason, his voice is distorted in all the Jack the Ripper scenes just to be a convenience for the filmmakers to hide his identity when it doesn’t serve any narrative purpose. 

From Hell is interesting, has some cool performances, and generally keeps you engaged. The narrative twists crumple under their own weight and the final act just left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I wanted to like this movie, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy most of it. However, the ending really hampers the film and makes it difficult for me to recommend because you’ll only leave your viewing disappointed. 

Final Say: Watch It (And Turn It Off With 20 Minutes Left)

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He’s a native Texan (YEE-HAW) who loves everything Michael Bay has ever touched. When he’s not blogging, he’s working on his mobile app, BoxHopp, or tinkering with his fantasy football lineups.

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