You ever see those movies that were so chock-full of potential that somehow managed to be a huge waste of time? Welcome to my hell people, or more accurately, welcome to From Hell. The Hughes Brothers adapted an Alan Moore graphic novel (poor guy hasn’t had much luck with Hollywood… The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen anyone?) and managed to botch it. The story follows Inspector Abberline (Johnny Depp with muttonchops-in-training) who has a rather unorthodox method of connecting with a series of murders that famously came to be known as the crimes of Jack the Ripper. The graphic novel dives into the history of the murders full force and explores an elaborate conspiracy theory that, whether true or not, at least makes for an interesting story. While this incredible graphic novel is cited as the source material little of what made Moore’s book interesting translates to the screen.
I know, it seems like I’m taking it especially hard, considering the movie came out in 2001. But I cite this film as a particular example of disappointing fare for a couple of reasonds. First and foremost, as a kid I had a borderline disturbing obsession with Jack the Ripper. I thought the mystery was so interesting, even if it was profoundly disturbing. You may think I’m exaggerating, but when my family and I went to London in the 7th grade or so, my tourist activity of choice was a late-night walking tour of the Ripper murders. Not what most people go for, but this kind of fascination gave me high hopes for the movie. My disappointment is only renewed now because, in a rather odd turn of events, I felt compelled to re-watch it. Even though it’s nearing the end of February, I’ve been on a strong horror.slasher kick.
Let me be clear, From Hell works as that, a temporary cure for bloodlust. Sure, it’s painfully dull in between murder scenes, but those murder scenes are pretty epic. Especially given that when the movie came out in 2001 (when I would have been about 14) and my dad agreed to take me to this movie, I was pretty amazed. Still, From Hell‘s gore holds up pretty well. It’s the characters and the storylines that don’t… which is a bit of a problem.
This isn’t just me speaking as a fan of the graphic novel whose potential was squandered, but just as a general movie-goer. There’s not much here to like. The characters aren’t particularly involved or dimensional, the acting is pretty touch and go, and it’s about 90 minutes too long, which isn’t great news for a movie that’s roughly 2 hours.
From Hell had the makings of greatness; interesting story and memorable characters but somehow got lost on the way. What remains is some awesome violence if you’re a slasher fan. However, violence doesn’t sustain this movie and it loses its steam quick. All in all, From Hell should go back where it came from.