Eric's Review of From Hell
From Hell can be whatever you want it to be. If you are looking for a horror film (which the trailers seemed to be catered for) then you're best of looking somewhere else for scares. If however you are looking for an intelligently scripted murder mystery then this will be ideal for you.
Based on Alan Moore's graphic novel, From Hell gives a fictional (although surprisingly accurate) account of the hunt for Jack the Ripper, the notorious serial killer that roamed the streets of London in the late 1800s. Inspector Frederick Abberline (Johnny Depp) is a clairvoyant, opium-addicted detective that is placed in charge of the case. Abberline sees brief flashes of the victims in his dreams during the films more visual and unnerving moments. He is joined in his investigation by Sergeant Peter Godley (Robbie Coltrane) who in real life was involved in the investigation but never actually met Abberline until the final murder was committed. While the actual events never suggested that the prostitutes that fell victim to the Ripper knew each other, in this story they all work the streets together, including Mary Kelly (Heather Graham).
The British accents may be a little hard to place for English viewers, but the film is fairly well cast. While Johnny Depp wasn't the first choice or even the second to play Abberline, in the end the Hughes Brothers made the right decision. A character that is intriguing and dark, it is right in Depp's strike zone, and he doesn't disappoint. Along with Coltrane's Godley, the pair has a Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson quality about them. Abberline is the eccentric yet brilliant detective, and Godley is the faithful companion who at many times appears to be the brighter of the two. Heather Graham's British accent only seems to manifest itself when she's angry, but it is still a very competent performance.
The problem with From Hell is that it is expected to scare, but it aims for unnerve. The latter it achieves rather effectively, from the brutal murder scenes to the incredibly well crafted reveal of who the Ripper is. Abberline confronts the person responsible and explains how he has figured things out. We don't quite understand what he is saying at first, until the Ripper puts on the infamous dinner jacket and coat in front of him as his eyes turn black, which is as close to terrifying as this film gets. Still fairly close.
VERDICT: A scary film it certainly isn't. Well crafted visually and intelligently scripted it is. An intriguing and slightly unnerving horror film.