Main cast: Johnny Depp (Inspector Frederick George ‘Fred’ Abberline), Heather Graham (Mary Kelly), Ian Holm (Sir William Gull), Ian Richardson (Police Inspector Sir Charles Warren), Robbie Coltrane (Peter Godley), Lesley Sharp (Catherine ‘Kate’ Eddowes), Susan Lynch (Liz Stride), Katrin Cartlidge (Dark Annie Chapman), Paul Rhys (Dr Ferral), Jason Flemyng (John Netley/the Ripper’s Driver), Annabelle Apsion (Polly), and Joanna Page (Annie Crook)
Directors: Albert and Allen Hughes
From Hell is a depressing and dark story about a police inspector of the late 19th century London who lost everything while trying to track down the serial killer Jack the Ripper. Various theories about Jack the Ripper float around like flotsam, but From Hell chooses the “the Ripper may be linked to the Royalty” angle.
Inspector Fred Abberline is an opium addict who sees visions in his high. This, people, is his secret to his success. As he sees vision of the murders, he is enlisted to head the team solving this crime spree. The victims are a circle of prostitutes working in the same district and friends with each other. As Abberline tries to stop the Ripper from killing the women one by one, he is drawn to one of them, Mary Kelly.
Of course, the women just cannot follow orders never to wander in the dark alone, or even lock their doors. Of course, everyone in the police is corrupt. Where this movie succeeds is to create a depressing picture of the police force at that time. Suspects are rounded up not because of evidences but because of prejudices, criminals from the upper classes are let go because no one wants to go against a member of the upper class, and members of the lower classes are considered lower than low. Abberline is banging his head against the wall, and in the end, when he loses everything, I am depressed.
But not so depressed to wonder why of all the prostitutes in this story, Mary Kelly seems to have the shiniest hair and nicest makeup. Where is she getting money for all that toiletries and shampoo? Mary Kelly is a one-dimensional Tart with Heart of Gold character, but she does bring out the tortured sweetness from Abberline (Johnny Depp playing the role like a virtuoso). But please, Heather Graham, don’t try an English accent in the future, please?
And yes, I figured out the identity of the Ripper the moment the guy appears on screen. So much for suspense, then.
From Hell isn’t as much a horror movie as a more successful story of a poor, poor man who becomes a casualty of the wheels of injustice. Poor Abberline, I hope you will find your peace one day. The story of the Ripper in From Hell isn’t much, but Abberline’s story is the one that tugs at my heartstrings. I never could resist a depressed, tortured junkie who gives up everything for love anyway.