Based on Alan Moore’s graphic novel, From Hell is a flashy, dark, well-meaning film that ultimately fails to deliver on its promises.
I’d hoped for more from Johnny Depp and Ian Holm. Both are actors I respect, but unfortunately their talents are largely wasted on a plot that I figured out about a quarter of the way through.
Depp’s Inspector Abberline’s opium induced talents are called in to investigate a recent series of grisly murders. A certain Mr. Ripper apparently has it in for the local working girls. One in particular, Mary Kelly, played awkwardly by Heather Graham, tickles the inspector’s fancy and provides the necessary love interest.
It turns out, like most badly conceived thrillers, that the killer is the last person you’d suspect. (Actually, the second-to-last here.) Even though the actor’s voice was lowered when playing Jack, it was painfully obvious who it was early on, although the whole Freemason/Queen angle was intriguing if a bit labored.
The actual look of the film is quite good – pleasantly dark and Psycho-like in its renderings of all but the final killings. But unlike The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (also based on a Moore novel), the visual trappings don’t overcome the pedestrian direction.
It’s a nice enough choice for Halloween, and Graham isn’t difficult to look at (although the Carrot Top hair color drove me batty), but From Hell ends up being just another fill-in-the-blank Ashley Judd-esque disappointment – fun to look at, but hard to watch.