There have been so many books, movies and TV shows about Jack The Ripper that you might think that the story had been done to death and that nobody would be interested anymore. However, The Hughes brothers "From Hell" proves that there will always be a demand for a quality production of a very grizzly true horror story.
Way back in the 19th century (in the fall of 1888 to be precise) one of the worlds first recorded serial killers brutally murdered five prostitutes (yes, only 5) bringing terror to London's east end slums. And whilst, in terms of numbers, modern serial killers such as Jeffrey Dahmer have been much more prolific, it seems that it is still Jack The Ripper's crimes that continue to still fascinate many people. Is it because of the brutal yet clinical way that the murders were carried out? Or is it because the case remains unsolved? Probably both but as The Hughes brothers, previously best known for the likes of Menace II Society, have set out to prove, that although long dead there are still plenty of 'worthy' suspects.
Based on the Alan Moore/Eddie Campbell cartoon strip and using the very beautiful city of Prague to expertly recreate Victorian London, The Hughes Brothers' latest movie pitches the clairvoyant, opium partaking, Inspector Fred Abberline (an impressive Johnny Depp), aided by his assistant Peter Godley (the always excellent Robbie Coltrane) racing against time in search of history's most notorious murderer, in this very watchable and very enjoyable yarn. Adapted by screenwriters Terry Hayes and Rafael Yglesias from the previously mentioned Moore/Campbell source material, From Hell manages to draw everybody from Queen Victoria to Oscar Wilde and the Elephant Man into the plot of this movie, which far from detracting from the true history of the attacks, actually adds a little more depth and a little more zest to this period thriller. To The Hughes brothers credit, this is not just another typical cheap and tasteless Hollywood slasher movie but instead it presents us with the full squalor, poverty and hardship that existed at that time, with the prostitutes presented as poor unfortunate human beings struggling against abject poverty to survive and finding consolation in alcohol. From Hell also boasts excellent performances of depth and subtlety not just from the likes of Depp (complete with a creditable cockney accent), Coltrane (Harry Potter) and renowned British stage actor Sir Ian Holm (Lord of the Rings) but also notably from the likes of (despite a slightly ropey accent) Heather Graham, Lesley Sharp, Annabelle Apsion and the late Katrin Cartlidge (No Man's Land) as the prostitutes earning their living in the squalor that was London's east end.
In summary, I thoroughly enjoyed From Hell and would recommend it to anyone looking for something a bit more intelligent, well written and well acted, as an alternative to the traditional horror teen flicks which seem to dominate our cinemas on a weekly basis. Four stars ****.