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*** Official "FROM HELL" Review Thread (1 Viewer)

Robert Crawford

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This thread is now the Official Review Thread for "From Hell". Please post all HTF member reviews in this thread. Any other comments, links to other reviews, or discussion items will be deleted from this thread without warning! If you need to discuss those type of issues, I have designated an Official Discussion Thread which can be found at this link .
Again, without warning, I will delete all posts that are not a HTF member review!
Thank you for your consideration in this matter.
Crawdaddy
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[Edited last by Robert Crawford on October 20, 2001 at 06:30 AM]
 

Kevin Leonard

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Mar 11, 2001
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920
Well, I guess I'll get the ball rolling.
First, let me get two things out of the way: 1) I have not read the graphic novel this film is based on; 2) It's been awhile since I've read up on Jack the Ripper, so I'm not sure how much creative license has been taken.
From Hell is an interesting film: an 1800's whodunit based on a real story. Inspector Abberline (Johnny Depp) is on the trail of a murderer who has been using a variety of sharp and painful devices to play doctor on unsuspecting prostitutes (or "unfortunates," as they're called in the film). Abberline is an interesting person: he has "visions" where he can see the victims being killed, a helpful device to catch the killer. Also helping out Abberline is a sergeant (Robbie Coltrane), prostitute (Heather Graham) and a teacher (Ian Holm).
If nothing else, From Hell is a visual treat. Even if you're bored by the plot, there will always be something going on in the background or some kind of little detail that will catch your eye. In terms of style and tone, this movie reminded me a lot of Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula. Both films feature a grab bag of stylistic camera tricks: deeply filtered shots, use of time lapse photography and slow-mo, extremely unsettling closeups, and show-offy cinematography up the ying-yang. And I for one loved every minute of it; as stated earlier, the movie is an absolute treat for the eyes. The set design, costumes and photography all mesh together beautifully to create a very real atmosphere.
Acting-wise, Johnny Depp is basically on autopilot here: it's a good performance and he is quite skillful with a British-Irish accent :), but almost anyone could have played the part...even though it's the lead character, it still feels like a thankless role. Heather Graham is quite good (especially with her accent), and looks pretty damn fine with red hair, but like Depp, her part is basically needless. She drifts in and out of scenes with no real purpose, other than to provide a half-hearted love story. Thankfully, the Brits pick up the acting slack, with Ian Holm giving off another skillful performance. During the course of From Hell, he has to shift moods dramatically, and does so with ease; he easily puts Depp to shame in their scenes together. Robbie Coltrane walks off with the film, mixing equal parts brutishness and fatherly affection towards Depp; he's utterly riveting in every scene he appears in, and makes me wish they had more of him in the film.
The Hughes brothers do an excellent job behind the camera; they manage to walk that fine line between just-a-job and look-at-me-Ma! directing. Though initially I thought this was quite a different film from their previous work, I could see why they would have chosen to make it. Their earlier movies (Menace II Society, Dead Presidents and American Pimp) all dealt with urban decay, and From Hell follows in that tradition, except it's in a different timeframe. The Hughes brothers know how to tell a story, and how to tell it well. Here's to hoping they'll make even grander and better films in the future.
For all its merits though (and there are several), From Hell unfortunately has two big problems. The first is its length; this sucker runs for nearly two-and-a-half hours...not many films can sustain that running time without dragging and From Hell is no exception. If another fifteen minutes had been trimmed, it would have lead to a far more tighter and cohesive film; there were several moments I was squirming in my seat, and I can guarantee you it wasn't from the grisly sights.
The first problem leads directly into the second problem, which is a series of undeveloped sub-plots: chief among these is some kind of secret underground society (think of it as a primitive version of the Stonecutters from "The Simpsons") and implied lesbianism from one of the prostitutes. The latter is particularly puzzling; I'm all for seeing two women kissing
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but there was no point to include it here, other than to show that lesbians existed in the 19th century.
Despite its shortcomings, I would heartily recommend From Hell. There's a little something for everybody here, whether it be Depp or Graham fans, gore hounds, history buffs, etc., and it is certainly worth a look for the curious. Just skip eating before or during the film though. :) And regardless of your feelings of the film, I can assure that you'll never look at grapes the same way again.
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[Edited last by Kevin Leonard on October 20, 2001 at 06:48 PM]
 

JohnS

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I was somewhat disappointed by this film.
visually it's nice. It also starts out pretty good.
But somewhere along the story it drifts off and looses my interests. The ending was very disappointing.
Johnny Depp had a good performance.
All in all I would have to give it a C
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Ben Motley

Supporting Actor
Joined
Mar 3, 2001
Messages
738
I for one thoroughly enjoyed From Hell.
It had great scenery, wonderful atmosphere, and, I think, very well done gore. It doesn't hover gratuitously, but every kill is shown differently and is individually creative. The first kill really had me thinking they were going to cop out with the gore, but boy was I wrong. The last one is a doozy, as is Dark Annie's.
Good characters - We're not really supposed to "care" for the prostitutes. For those of you who say you just couldn't care for the characters, I feel that was kinda the point (well, no one here has said that, but in other forums, it's been mentioned a bit). The prostitutes were all very believable, I thought, even Graham. While she had straight teeth and perfectly unmuffed hair, I just chalked it up to her character's pure Irish heritage
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. Furthermore, these are bleak times for London. There is much animosity and morosity between the classes at this time in London's history, and Whitechapel was considered the seat of urban poverty and squalor. I think the film touches on this, showing the near aristocracy of the doctors, the irresponsibility of the royalty, and the dirty, thankless plight of the working women and the flatfoots. Frankly, we don't give a shit for anybody in this film, because we aren't supposed to. Having said all that, I was quite pleased with everybody's acting.
An interesting story - This isn't a documentary, it is historical fiction. I think there is nothing as grim as the real story and photographs from the Jack the Ripper case. However, the case was never closed, as it was never solved. So, any film that goes beyond the scope of what evidence exists, is going to be, 99.9% of the time anyway, false. But who knows... as the case was never solved, any filmmakers idea is as good as anyone elses.
SLIGHT SPOILER AHEAD...
True, the secret society angle seems farfetched, but it really isn't. The freemasons have existed for what seems an eternity, and their membership numbers are something of legend in the late 19th century in England. That they were brought into this particular take on the legend is nothing new, as conspiracy buffs have alluded the idea that they were somehow connected to the case for decades. Did it happen this way? Again, the filmmaker's idea is as good as anyone elses. (I keep referring to the filmmakers because I've never finished the comics , and can't comment on whether this was originally Alan Moore's idea, or the Hughes Brother's idea).
It's not perfect, but it's far from bad. My one complaint is that it does feel somehow disjointed, like the film's various aspects don't quite gel perfectly into a seemless whole. I've read posts that suggest that the European cut is longer. If this is true, it may have something to do with this disjointed feel, as it does seem to have been an editing issue.
So, there are a few reasons why at least one person feels From Hell was a good movie.... and even one negative criticism. I would love to see it again, will probably buy the dvd when it comes out, and I recommend it heartily to any fan of period horror.
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JonZ

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I LOVED the reason they gave for why the victimes were "operated" on. Fantastic camera work,a bit slow in the middle, but it was enjoyable.
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Elbert Lee

Supporting Actor
Joined
May 24, 2000
Messages
501
The real weaknesses were the plot points. The movie needed to enhance the PIVOTAL scenes (a la David Fincher) to "pinch" the audience a bit and give a spark to the pacing of the film. One good example is the scene where Depp brings Graham to the art museum (a very pivotal scene). However, the Hughes bros. almost just blew by it like it was just another scene. On the whole, the movie felt a bit repetitious without seeming like it was changing any real direction or progressing. However, they did strike a good balance of style and substance, but definitely needed some more panache at the key moments to move the story along.
 

Scott Weinberg

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Here's my review, reprinted from eFilmCritic.com:
While the legend of Jack the Ripper is certainly nothing new iin the world of cinema, this most recent incarnation benefits from a solid story structure, a hypnotic visual sense and a handful of fantastic acting performances. You can forgive From Hell its 'historical license' mainly because the end result is a darkly engrossing and intelligently-written tale; one that is a true rarity: A horror movie for grown-ups.
When I heard that the Jack the Ripper legend was about to be tackled again, I was intrigued by the choice of director(s). Best known for the urban action films Menace II Society and Dead Presidents, The Hughes Brothers might not have seemed like the best "fit" for this material. Someone over at Fox studios was using their head, because these directors bring a truly stunning visual sense to the dank and depraved goings-on. (Imagine a smelly, dirty horror version of Moulin Rouge.)
Though you're no doubt familiar with the tale of Jack the Ripper, From Hell offers some well-told exposition that allows the filmmakers some entertainingly creative license, while still holding close enough to history. (Students of this legend will no doubt point out that The Ripper was indeed never apprehended.) From Hell is a great example of why it's sometimes perfectly fine for filmmakers to re-mold history to tell their story. (For an example of the diametric opposite if this concept, feel free to ingest the muck that is Pearl Harbor.)
It's London in 1885 and a mysterious figure has been slaughtering the local prostitutes in the Whitechapel district. The severity of the killings brings Inspector Abberline to the case, and this is a policeman with a peculiar gift: he seems to catch visions of the killer's next prey. Unfortunately, the detective must also be zonked out on opium before his visions appear. The local crime syndicate is the first suspect, but Abberline rules them out quickly, as the crimes are simply too vile to be committed by petty criminals.
Much of what makes From Hell so entertaining is the clever plot structure the Hughes brothers have conceived. The screenplay (by Terry Hayes and Rafael Yglesias) offers several seemingly unrelated subplots that eventually tie themselves together in a not-completely-predictable fashion. These side stories also offer the audience a who's who of possible murderers. Yes, that's right. From Hell is not merely a stylish horror film, but a pretty damn effective whodunnit to boot!
Firmly entrenched on the grimy streets of London are a rather unsavory cast of characters: the oily Police Commissioner, an obese coroner, a devious carriage driver, the court physician, the local crime boss and his henchmen and of course a whole gaggle of grungy prostitutes. The one beauty among the crowd is the luminous Mary Kelly, who of course catches the eye of Inspector Abberline throughout the course of his investigation.
Though there's hardly a weak link among the cast (more on that in a minute), the star of this film is easily its visual splendor. From its deep purple sunsets to the overwhelmingly vile city streets, From Hell is certainly a wonderful movie to see. And while many modern movies are "fun for the eyes", From Hell is more than just cool to look at.
Johnny Depp (Sleepy Hollow, Blow) adds yet another fantastic performance to his already impressive track record. His Inspector Abberline is by no means a gung-ho crime fighter, but a haunted and tragic figure. Depp brings a wonderful sense of confusion and a trace of ironic humor to his performance, and I think it's one of his best ever. Faring not as well (but still better than usual) is the lovely Heather Graham (Bowfinger, Boogie Nights) as the only beautiful whore in all of London.
If nothing else, From Hell contains a wealth of strong performances by its impressive supporting cast. Ian Holm (Alien, Big Night) as court physician William Gull is as strong as ever. (Has this guy ever given a bad performance?) Ian Richardson (Dark City, Year of the Comet) is great fun as the pompous and untrusting Police Commissioner. As Abberline's affable partner, Robbie Coltrane (Nuns on the Run, GoldenEye) brings an essential sense of sweetness and decency to a story that's simply knee-deep in ugliness.
And make no mistake. Despite the fact that From Hell is a fine motion picture, it is an unremittingly ugly film. From the filthy, urine-soaked streets of the city's red-light district to the grimy and unsavory looking lunatic asylums, From Hell is a movie that will jolt your senses repeatedly. Of course, the shocking violence and candid depictions of base humanity only serve to tell the story better.
Based on the classic graphic novel (by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell), From Hell should prove a solid treat to horror movie fans who've grown weary of slasher machinations and subterranean slime monsters. Deftly plotted, well-acted, graphically memorable and ultimately satsifying, From Hell deserves praise for taking a creaky old tale and offering it in a surprisingly original light.
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Scott Weinberg
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[Edited last by Scott Weinberg on October 23, 2001 at 07:37 PM]
 

Kelley_B

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Feb 27, 2001
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i liked it alot.....on my scale which is will I buy it on DVD or not buy it, this one gets a I will buy it.
Can't wait to see this one on DVD.
 

Rob Willey

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I was happy the Hughes Bros. stayed true to all the forensics I've ever seen on the case. That they managed to do it and tack on a sappy, Hollywood ending is somewhat amazing.
I've always believed in the Free Mason's tie-in to the murders, so I'm also glad they put that out front. Along with the atmospherics, there were definitely some things to like.
There was also a lot to dislike. The "camraderie" among the hookers didn't seem right at all. This was one of a few anachronisms I thought marred the story.
The happy ending really ruined the mood for me. It felt so tacked on, like in The Player when everyone wants a happy ending for every script idea that was pitched. A happy ending, not supported by any historical facts just felt really wrong to me. Why does a story about Jack the Ripper of all things need a happy ending!?
A mild recommendation despite its flaws.
Rob
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JasonK

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May 10, 2000
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Just saw this earlier this afternoon. I thought it was great. The film flew by for me - it didn't feel like 2 hours and 15 minutes at all. I liked Johnny Depp, his role reminded me as a better, more professional inspector than his Ichabod Crane role from Sleepy Hollow.
And I really liked the look of the film. Some reviews called it "too dark" but hey - that's when the murders took place. The whole atmosphere was creepy. A big
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.
 

Scott Burke

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I thought this movie was disappointing as well (especially the ending). I tried to explain why earlier this morning, however, I just couldn't put my finger on it. Something was just lacking in the film.
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Agee Bassett

Supporting Actor
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Feb 13, 2001
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In one of my extremely rare sojourns to the local cinema in recent years, I got in to see From Hell this past Tuesday night, courtesy a couple of free tickets. Unfortunately, it is now stuck in my brain cells for the next little while (fortunately I've calmed down since Tuesday
wink.gif
).
Spoilers below!
Proceed at your own risk.
Admittedly, I see VERY few contemporary films at
the multiplex anymore (this is my first since
GLADIATOR), so excuse me if I seem extremely
unforgiving of the excesses of 21st-century Hollywood
filmmaking. In fact, I probably spend an unhealthy
percentage of my movie-watching time viewing and
re-viewing a relatively small assemblage of certain
classic films; so my expectations are perhaps
unrealistically lofty.
That said, FROM HELL is one of the most digusting
films I have ever seen, and the gore was among the
more palatable parts. What wasn't was the
non-characters; non-plot; adolescent dialogue;
juvenile character motivations and types; atrocious
acting; exploitative content; anachronistic attitudes;
soulless, MTV-like imagery; murky photography; cliched
music; deafening soundtrack; skull-fracturing
pointing; and cocksure, contemptuous direction (only
the sets manage to survive a modicum of integrity in
this cynical mess). All too typically, FROM HELL seems
the perfect narcotic for this anti-social,
misanthropic age.
The film's howlingly absurd plot machinations and
dramatic inaccuracies seem irrelevant alongside such
an onslaught of ludricrously bad filmmaking. Among the
height of hilarity is to see the film's young
ingenue-turned-Victorian-prostitute, Heather Graham,
strut down the dank streets of 1888 Whitechapel like
she was sporting the latest designs at a Vegas runway.
Wearing her fashionable anorexia, full-lips, and
impudent chin, Graham's Mary Kelly is about as
convincing a 19th-century London hooker as Dr. Laura.
Johnny Depp's Miss Cleo-on-crack Scotland Yard
investigator makes you wonder how the good inspector
managed to find his pecker in his pants, let alone
Jack the Ripper. The film's hysterical, wild-eyed
portrait of villainy make the black-hatted,
mustache-twirling ruffians of the silent era look
positively subdued and sophisticated by comparison.
No 21st-century filmmaking cliche is left untapped.
From the crude, insolent, monosyllablic repartee (to
tickle the ears of its largely underage targeted
fanbase); to the trafficking-in of the obligatory
lesbian element (what better way to warm up a yawning
congregation of horny, teenage boys?); to the required
kung-fu-esque head-butt (to establish the gonads
factor); to the keystroke fiery explosion (to provide
the effect of what a bright object does); to a
side-splitting, "bad-guys-flying-through-glass" melee
aboard a 28-cylinder carriage (to give the hero
something to do); to the pseudo-lyric imagery (so
familiar from GLADIATOR) of our favorite
golden-hearted harlot back amongst the shamrocks and
heather of her suckling homeland (to immediately make
us lose our popcorn); the Hughes Bros. master the
deception of selling the unwashed masses a transparent
painting-by-bold, black-numbers. And if one was too
atrophied at this point to notice such glaring
evidence of the unbridled desperation wracking the
filmmakers, a cameo by the Elephant Man leaves
positively no doubt.
Sir Ian Holm alone emerges from this deformed
bastardization of entertainment with an ounce of
dignity remaining. A great actor wasted on
non-material.
Even the few factual elements which survived the
filmmaker's gleeful Ginsu process--some crime scene
details, a certain scrawl of graffiti, even an unnamed
Israel Schwartz makes an appearance (which is
decidedly briefer than the Elephant Man's)--come
across as rather perfunctory and less than
half-hearted; as if compelled to not only push the
unwashed masses' buttons, but also a pre-fixed number
designed to dupe Ripperologists. However, a retching
coroner, a throw-away racial jab at Indians, a
carriage-step louder than Big Ben, and a kidney
received in the mail by Depp from a still-living
prostitute, have a hard time suppressing hoots.
Nothing, in fact, is even made from London's Grim
Reaper, Jack the Ripper. Aside from filling in the
film's obligatory Hannibal Lector slot, our Jack seems
rather nondescript fellow for a serial-killer. Only
our cookie-tossing coroner is used to convey to us the
distinctive savagery of the crimes. Exempting the
casting department's generous recruitment from the
extra's union for the murder scenes, our Whitechapel
residents seem strangely unconcerned with what is
transpiring in the dark underbelly of their community.
The local hooker troupe doesn't seem any more clued
in. Perhaps this is because there doesn't seem to be a
media existing in our Whitechapel (a plate
photographer pops up every now and then, but it seems
he works for Scotland Yard)? See any newspapers at all
in the film? I didn't. Any repercussions that the
Ripper's reign of terror leaves seems narrowly limited
to our junkie-hero's pathetic succumbing to the wacky
weed. How even our nefarious butcher acquired his
world-famous nomenclature is a mystery. It is
apparently all business as usual for
turn-of-the-century Whitechapel.
Yet, the Jack the Ripper who petrified an entire
metropolis during the winter of 1888, and drew press
from across the globe, WAS a creation of the media.
The name Jack the Ripper still looms over the
atrocities committed by all serial killers since
because it was a morbid phenomenon then-unprecendented
in post-printing-press times. Apparently, it is too
much to ask a 21st-century filmmaker to provide any
context, or verisimilitude, or depth, to his film
universe.
FROM HELL serves as a good reminder as to why even
free cinema tickets are a waste of my money these
days. FROM HELL ought to have gone back where it came
from.
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Jason Boucher

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Messages
157
Wow, what a review. I disagree, but man can you write. Me thinks thou doth protest too much, however. You picked up so many intricacies of the film and wrote such an in depth review that I can't believe you hated it as much as your review conveys. It seems more like begrudging respect. Possible?
 

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