$2.50 Reviews: From Hell (2001)

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$2.50 Reviews

From Hell

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From Hell is an uneven and overlong mystery film that works almost solely because of its atmosphere building. It does such a good job at reinventing 1880's London that I didn't often feel bored, even though there isn't a lot to take in when it comes to the plot. It's far more simple than you might think considering at one point you'll think that every character is a suspect in the murder spree that's going on, but not a whole lot happens and if it wasn't for the visuals, I probably wouldn't have had a good time.

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The film begins by following the daily routine of a group of prostitutes in London in the year 1888. The main one is Mary (Heather Graham), because she gets the most camera time and will eventually serve as the love interest. They're harassed by their "protectors," and live each day in misery, poverty, and believe that things can't possibly sink any lower. That is, until one of them is murdered. Then things get serious enough to bring in a detective, a man named Frederick Abberline (Johnny Depp). Another murder, and we have a serial killer on our hands: Jack the Ripper is the man we are looking for.

For those unaware -- somehow -- Jack the Ripper was real and killed a whole bunch of people over the course of a relatively small period of time. The killer was never caught, and while it's possible that more than one person was behind the murders, the name "Jack the Ripper" was given to whoever was behind them, regardless of who and how many people there were. From Hell is a fictionalized account of a detective's attempt to catch the killer(s), and is based on a graphic novel by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell.

Or, at least, that's what it wants to be. What it is really is a film that has its detective go from place to place, attempting to solve clues, and only at the very end does he actually announce that he wants to put a stop to Jack. He seems far more interested in just having work than making a difference, and has no trouble indulging in opium and drink late at night, completely knocking himself out. He sees visions here which he claims will help him solve the crime, but really, that seemed to me like a ruse.

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Mostly, we just watch Abberline go from place to place, occasionally having prophetic, drug-induced visions. The person we suspect to be the killer changes from scene to scene, and about the only part of the plot that has any energy is given to the movie by the audience as we try to guess exactly who is killing all of the prostitutes. You get no prizes for guessing who it is, and you very well might not be surprised, as the killer isn't terribly shocking.

There's also a romantic subplot that likely should have been excluded as it slows things down and the two actors (Depp and Graham) don't have any chemistry together. You would have to change a few plot-related things around if you remove it, but you'd tidy up so much of the film and possibly give Abberline actual motivation that the improvements would be well worth the work. Sure, you might not stay true to the graphic novel, but the film diverges quite a bit from its source anyway, so it wouldn't really matter.

Admittedly, I did like looking at all of the visuals of the film. It's shot and crafted with style, and there is never a dull moment when talking about what you're looking at. Even the murders, as grizzly and bleak as they are, are quite pretty, too, assuming you aren't bothered by fairly graphic violence. You don't see a lot of the murders -- though you do see a lot of dead bodies -- but what you do see isn't pleasant.

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London is wonderfully recreated, or at least, I assume it is. Whether this is how the poor districts of London looked like in 1888 or not, I believed that this is where we were. We get transported to another place and time, and I wanted to spend a while there. It's fun just to take in the scenery, even if not a whole lot is done with the somewhat unique location. This same story could take place pretty much anywhere and at any time, and not much would change. The only reason it's at this time and place is to tie into Jack the Ripper, in hopes of getting more audience members to watch because of the connection to the real life killer.

And if you are watching this movie because it features Jack the Ripper, and you want to learn more about the case, you're watching the wrong movie. While many of the names are the same as real life people, the film is not at all historically accurate. It's based off a graphic novel, after all. Sure, you can see where the filmmakers got their information and how some of the events could have happened, but don't go into From Hell looking for Jack the Ripper insights.

From Hell builds a strong atmosphere and is visually stunning, but without a strong plot or characters, it all goes for naught. It's style without substance, I suppose, and while it had all the tools to be captivating, it fails frequently because its lead character doesn't seem to do much, and because the plot is dull. Don't hope for insight in the Jack the Ripper case, either, as the film doesn't even try to be true-to-life. It's fun for the visuals, and is almost worth watching for those alone, but I can't wholeheartedly recommend From Hell.

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As happy as I am about the movie portraying London wonderfully if not exactly like the real deal .. certain things got me to question if I should see this. For example, the subplot of romance going on where two characters have no chemistry but find a way to just be together regardless. It drags the movie and seems forced so the immersion starts to break apart for me.

Still, glad it was good enough to keep you entertained, or not bored. Might give it a go.

Hmmmm style or substance? Which do I want right now? Perhaps a good mix of both!

Good review as usual but I don't think I'll be seeing this. Atmosphere and that is all good but if it is mostly for naught then why bother?

Beffudled Sheep:
Hmmmm style or substance? Which do I want right now? Perhaps a good mix of both!

Good review as usual but I don't think I'll be seeing this. Atmosphere and that is all good but if it is mostly for naught then why bother?

As I recall, it did have some fun suspense scenes. It could get gory and icky and I really didn't need to see that sort of thing.

But the period stuff was terrific. If I'm not mistaken, is the one with a throw away scene that included an audience at a medical lecture seeing the Elephant man? The Elephant man doesn't have any purpose here other than to remind us of the period, and he was the rage in the medical community during that period.

I've had this one in my DVD collection for years. Really, even though I've seen better plots, at least the acting is solid, and as you said the visuals and atmosphere are great. Calling it a case of 'style over substance' seems overly harsh to me... a better example of that damning label would be Immortals, if you ask me.

Just so people know, absinthe = french gin equivalent (which is what he should have drank in london at that time).

UltraPic:
Just so people know, absinthe = french gin equivalent (which is what he should have drank in london at that time).

I'm not sure about 19th century gin and absinthe but the modern day equivalents could not be more different. I have absinthe and gin in my alcohol cupboard and the absinths is 72% and the gin 40%.

Bear In Heaven:

UltraPic:
Just so people know, absinthe = french gin equivalent (which is what he should have drank in london at that time).

I'm not sure about 19th century gin and absinthe but the modern day equivalents could not be more different. I have absinthe and gin in my alcohol cupboard and the absinths is 72% and the gin 40%.

That's my point, it's for getting smashed out your face drunk and not for tripping balls (and that's what people drank in france and england at the time for the same reason). Gin would have been the same 70% + at the time but got regulated while absinthe got banned (pernod/pastis is about 40%). If absinthe was about 40%, it would be possible to get something off the wormwood though (yes i'm sick of the whole "oooh absinthe get you tripping" thing, and the hollywood getting history wrong).

Gorfias:

Beffudled Sheep:
Hmmmm style or substance? Which do I want right now? Perhaps a good mix of both!

Good review as usual but I don't think I'll be seeing this. Atmosphere and that is all good but if it is mostly for naught then why bother?

As I recall, it did have some fun suspense scenes. It could get gory and icky and I really didn't need to see that sort of thing.

But the period stuff was terrific. If I'm not mistaken, is the one with a throw away scene that included an audience at a medical lecture seeing the Elephant man? The Elephant man doesn't have any purpose here other than to remind us of the period, and he was the rage in the medical community during that period.

Well then as a history student I need to see the film then :p

Maybe my local bargain bin will be selling it on the cheap.

Beffudled Sheep:

Gorfias:
... the period stuff was terrific. If I'm not mistaken, is the one with a throw away scene that included an audience at a medical lecture seeing the Elephant man? The Elephant man doesn't have any purpose here other than to remind us of the period, and he was the rage in the medical community during that period.

Well then as a history student I need to see the film then :p

Maybe my local bargain bin will be selling it on the cheap.

I'll have to check the comic some time. I love Alan Moore.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/From_Hell

This link tells that the book has the Elephant man in it, as well as others like Oscar Wilde!

Gorfias:

Beffudled Sheep:

Gorfias:
... the period stuff was terrific. If I'm not mistaken, is the one with a throw away scene that included an audience at a medical lecture seeing the Elephant man? The Elephant man doesn't have any purpose here other than to remind us of the period, and he was the rage in the medical community during that period.

Well then as a history student I need to see the film then :p

Maybe my local bargain bin will be selling it on the cheap.

I'll have to check the comic some time. I love Alan Moore.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/From_Hell

This link tells that the book has the Elephant man in it, as well as others like Oscar Wilde!

Eeehhh I'm not much of a comic man. I don't like the style of comics.

This film was blah. So unrealistic in how the characters were, and yes i know its a movie but the subject is real. If you want to watch a good film about Jack The Ripper then look up the version with Michael Caine as Aberline which is a two part series released in 1988 (dont be put off by the age. Its brilliant.) Its well acted, great looking set pieces and history from that time period is excellent. The wiki page link is below.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_the_Ripper_%281988_TV_series%29

Beffudled Sheep:

Gorfias:

I'll have to check the comic some time. I love Alan Moore.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/From_Hell

This link tells that the book has the Elephant man in it, as well as others like Oscar Wilde!

Eeehhh I'm not much of a comic man. I don't like the style of comics.

Largely don't read them anymore... too pricey and I have obligations. I almost quit while I was younger, but then Frank Miller kept me in for a few more years with a fresh style and way of looking at things. Then I almost quit again, and go sucked back in by Alan Moore and his Swamp Thing series on American Horror (not the show, which is excellent). He did The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen too. Very different from the movie loosely based upon his comic books. It too included things about the era but focused on a Super Hero team. Unlike the JLA, this had people like Dr. Jeckel, the Invisible Man and Alan Quartermaine doing the hero work. A good read IMHO.

I'll check From Hell ASAP (though, it might be a book rather than a graphic novel).

SonOfVoorhees:
This film was blah. So unrealistic in how the characters were, and yes i know its a movie but the subject is real. If you want to watch a good film about Jack The Ripper then look up the version with Michael Caine as Aberline which is a two part series released in 1988 (dont be put off by the age. Its brilliant.) Its well acted, great looking set pieces and history from that time period is excellent. The wiki page link is below.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_the_Ripper_%281988_TV_series%29

Rats. Not on Netflix. They do have a 1970s with Kinski but you have to get the DVD.

Beffudled Sheep:

Gorfias:

Beffudled Sheep:
Hmmmm style or substance? Which do I want right now? Perhaps a good mix of both!

Good review as usual but I don't think I'll be seeing this. Atmosphere and that is all good but if it is mostly for naught then why bother?

As I recall, it did have some fun suspense scenes. It could get gory and icky and I really didn't need to see that sort of thing.

But the period stuff was terrific. If I'm not mistaken, is the one with a throw away scene that included an audience at a medical lecture seeing the Elephant man? The Elephant man doesn't have any purpose here other than to remind us of the period, and he was the rage in the medical community during that period.

Well then as a history student I need to see the film then :p

Maybe my local bargain bin will be selling it on the cheap.

If you like the history of it check out this version staring Micheal Caine. It also has the elephant man as well as other historical stuff from that era like the opening of Jackle and Hide in the theatre at the same time the murders happened as well as the people on the verge of rioting and hatred for the police. Plus, as it was made with help from the BBC then you know the drama and costumes etc is high quality and authentic.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_the_Ripper_%281988_TV_series%29

SonOfVoorhees:

Beffudled Sheep:

Gorfias:

As I recall, it did have some fun suspense scenes. It could get gory and icky and I really didn't need to see that sort of thing.

But the period stuff was terrific. If I'm not mistaken, is the one with a throw away scene that included an audience at a medical lecture seeing the Elephant man? The Elephant man doesn't have any purpose here other than to remind us of the period, and he was the rage in the medical community during that period.

Well then as a history student I need to see the film then :p

Maybe my local bargain bin will be selling it on the cheap.

If you like the history of it check out this version staring Micheal Caine. It also has the elephant man as well as other historical stuff from that era like the opening of Jackle and Hide in the theatre at the same time the murders happened as well as the people on the verge of rioting and hatred for the police. Plus, as it was made with help from the BBC then you know the drama and costumes etc is high quality and authentic.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_the_Ripper_%281988_TV_series%29

Thank you! Once I havesome time I'll give it a look.

Gorfias:

Beffudled Sheep:

Gorfias:

I'll have to check the comic some time. I love Alan Moore.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/From_Hell

This link tells that the book has the Elephant man in it, as well as others like Oscar Wilde!

Eeehhh I'm not much of a comic man. I don't like the style of comics.

Largely don't read them anymore... too pricey and I have obligations. I almost quit while I was younger, but then Frank Miller kept me in for a few more years with a fresh style and way of looking at things. Then I almost quit again, and go sucked back in by Alan Moore and his Swamp Thing series on American Horror (not the show, which is excellent). He did The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen too. Very different from the movie loosely based upon his comic books. It too included things about the era but focused on a Super Hero team. Unlike the JLA, this had people like Dr. Jeckel, the Invisible Man and Alan Quartermaine doing the hero work. A good read IMHO.

I'll check From Hell ASAP (though, it might be a book rather than a graphic novel).

SonOfVoorhees:
This film was blah. So unrealistic in how the characters were, and yes i know its a movie but the subject is real. If you want to watch a good film about Jack The Ripper then look up the version with Michael Caine as Aberline which is a two part series released in 1988 (dont be put off by the age. Its brilliant.) Its well acted, great looking set pieces and history from that time period is excellent. The wiki page link is below.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_the_Ripper_%281988_TV_series%29

Rats. Not on Netflix. They do have a 1970s with Kinski but you have to get the DVD.

They are insanely priced for a collection of picture books. Hell, I can get a couple 1,000 page novels for the price of one decent comic around my area.

 

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