122 Min. | Horror – Mystery – Thriller | December 2001
IMDB Rating: 6.8
Director: Albert Hughes, Allen Hughes
Staring: Johnny Depp, Heather Graham, Ian Holm
From Hell Review: There are many things in media that have nearly insurmountable preconceptions that lead to generic truisms. One of these is ‘comic books are pure fluff,’ and another is ‘no good movie is ever based on a comic book’. From Hell is a project that takes both of those truisms and tosses them completely out the window. Based on an ambitious graphic novel written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Eddie Campbell, From Hell (named for the signature on the Jack the Ripper letters written to the police), is one man’s carefully researched theory into the eternal mystery surrounding the Whitechapel murders of 1888. This is not a factual display of guilt or innocence, as many of the answers behind these crimes will never be known, but as theory mixed with fact, it creates with chilling detail the mood of lower-class London in the late nineteenth century, where life was cheap, bloody and oftentimes short.
In From Hell, the Hughes brothers, noted for their stylish direction, do a very good job of creating the mood here, involving all the grunginess and hopelessness of the streets, and combining the more mystical elements of Moore’s story into the crime tale. Johnny Depp is Inspector Abberline – an opium-smoking criminal investigator that often follows up on hunches he receives during moments of hallucinatory revelation. The style of the film – dripping with violent murder of prostitutes in alleyways – leaves more to the imagination than it reveals, although the gore level is by no means light. The vicious throat-slashes and bloody crime scenes are definitely grotesque, but most of the time we are shown the crime after the fact, letting the viewer decide how horrible the murder itself was.
All the performances are strong, fitting together into an ensemble piece, with Depp being as much a chameleon as ever as Abberline, and Robbie Coltrane equally strong as his colleague Godfrey. Ian Holm, Heather Graham, and Ian Richardson also provide good supporting roles. For an historical perspective of the Jack the Ripper crimes, best to watch an A and E documentary. But for a theoretical description of the crimes, and an artful depiction of a carefully constructed tale, definitely check out the very chilling, very calculated, and very good From Hell.