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From Hell
Review written by: Alex Sandell



"I am bored."  "I am bored,
also."  "I am  faking an
English accent."  I am faking
an English accent, also."  "
Are we in love now?"  "Yes,
I think that we are."

Making the story of Jack the Ripper boring would be a task equal to, or greater than, making a blind man see.  Basing the story of Jack the Ripper on the incredibly well-written graphic novel, From Hell, boring, would be a task equal to, or greater than, making a blind man see, and then giving him wings, and allowing him to fly. Unfortunately, the Hughes Brothers are up to the task.  This movie is an abomination.  Yes, it's that bad.  

I began doubting that this adaptation would be anything special, as soon as I found out the Hughes Brothers were behind it.  Their directing style in Menace II Society and Dead Presidents, both excellent films, in their own hardened way, did not seem as though it would lend itself to the eerie, and sometimes impassioned, feel the comic book captured.  This was another Hollywood blunder along the lines of hiring Clint Eastwood to direct Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.  Even if the shoe doesn't fit, big shot producers still seem determined to make a director wear it, as long as their name may possibly draw in a crowd that may otherwise not be interested in a certain film.  Yet, all the blame can't be put on the shoulders of misguided producers and ill-suited directors.  There's the source material itself, which simply wasn't made to be condensed and mass-marketed.  No director, screenwriter or producer could squeeze the plethora of imagination and information contained within the From Hell graphic novel into a two hour period of time.  This would have been far more interesting as an HBO mini-series, where From Hell author Alan Moore's vision could have been fully realized.  

After watching the movie, it is obvious to me that the Hughes Brothers, along with the screenwriters, whose names I don't feel like looking up, didn't seem interested in fully realizing dick.  They instead chose to take the easy way out, focusing on the Royal Conspiracy theory, which has already been done to death, from the graphic novel, which itself only used it as a jumping board into an expansive environment of twisted perversion, and leaving all the entertaining stuff behind for us comic book geeks.  So, in the end, what interest did the Hughes Brothers have in adapting a graphic novel as complex as From Hell?  Apparently none, being that they couldn't manage to keep the movie as compelling as the comic, and were about as faithful to the printed page their film was based upon as my ex-wife was to me, during our marriage.

Being that the Hughes Brothers had no interest in actually adapting the comic book, it would have been wise to scrap it entirely and, rather than using the Royal Conspiracy theory, they could have made the film at least semi-interesting, using instead, the Francis Tumblety theory (if you're interested in this, look it up.  It's far too long to go into detail with, here).  There is a LOT to that story, and it could make for one hell of a film.  If the Tumblety story proved to be too complex, and not quite scary enough, they had plenty of other alternatives.  If they had simply wanted to go for sheer terror, I think The Lodger theory is the creepiest, and could make for the most chilling movie.  If they wanted to do something completely different, they could have used the Jill the Ripper theory (no, I'm not making that up), and made Jack a woman.  Hell, even the Dr. Alexander Pedachenko theory would have made for a more intriguing movie.  Nevertheless, after watching this film, I don't think the Hughes Brothers were qualified for making something chilling, unique and/or intriguing, at least as far as Jack the Ripper is concerned.  To put it bluntly, as Jack did so many times, this movie blows.

As any good amateur Ripperologist knows, even the Royal Conspiracy theory can be compelling, in all of its gleeful paranoia and glossed-over inanity.  As I've already mentioned, the comic book this film borrowed from was, for the most part, enthralling.  But, for whatever reason, the Hughes Brothers have decided to make a movie so drab, so dismal and so dull, nothing in the world can save it.  This film crawls along for two hours, with nothing much going on.  Its stuck in a cycle of boring dialogue and flat acting, a brief, MTV-style killing, and more boring dialogue (wash, rinse and repeat).  A horribly underdeveloped, and incredibly insipid, romance is thrown in, in an attempt to keep the viewer awake, but it goes no where, and only succeeds in adding that much more unnecessary running time to a film that is already dragging.  A horribly underdeveloped, and incredibly insipid, subplot involving Inspector Frederick George Abberline (Johnny Depp) smoking opium and having visions of the future is thrown in, but it goes no where, and only succeeds in adding that much more unnecessary running time to a film that is already dragging.  About 3 million horribly underdeveloped, and incredibly insipid, subplots involving numerous red herrings, are thrown in, but they go no where, and only succeed in adding that much more unnecessary running time to a film that is already dragging.  You get the idea.

Although From Hell is supposed to be a mystery, it doesn't really work as one, and the clues that it gives out in the first 30 minutes are so shockingly obvious, they quickly turn the film from a "whodunit" to a "hedidit", leaving the audience always one step ahead of the material.   In the graphic novel, you are told who the Ripper is almost immediately.  Why the filmmakers would go through the effort of changing this, only to give us a bad mystery, is beyond me.  You would think that, with no effort put into successfully adapting an incredible graphic novel, or creating a clever whodunit, a lot of effort would have been put into giving the audience a few good scares, but, instead, it seems as though this movie is going out of its way not to be scary.  There wasn't one genuinely frightening moment in the entire film.  As a matter of fact, there wasn't one laugh, or one cry, or one moment of suspense.  Hell, there wasn't really anything.  This is the only movie that I've ever watched which evoked absolutely no emotional response from me, or, as far as I could tell, anyone else in the audience, outside of the inevitable boredom, and possible drowsiness.

At the end, someone in the back of the theater yelled out, "how stupid!".  A person in the front replied by shouting, "100% crap!"  I couldn't have summed it up better myself.  

What does it make you feel like eating?

Hollywood. 

What are you selling us here???

Jack the Ripper as a sleeping pill.

If it won an Oscar, what would it be?

"Best job of turning the entertaining into mundane" - From Hell

On a scale of 1-10?

3 (for the couple of cool gory parts, the good set design, and Heather Graham's cleavage)

Agree? Disagree? Email me at alex@juicycerebellum.com 

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Text (Copyright) 2001 Alex Sandell [All Rights Reserved].  If you copy this, without my permission, I'll send Jack after you!

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