The early 2000’s saw a lot of MTV crowd, ensemble piece slasher flicks try and imitate the success of the Scream franchise. Some are great (Urban Legend) and some, like Ripper: Letter From Hell, fall short of being anything but vaguely entertaining distractions.
AJ Brook plays the survivor of a previous slew of killings studying the psychology of mass murder under a creepy but well researched college professor (Bruce Payne). Suddenly a new killer emerges who uses the crimes of infamous Jack The Ripper as a baseline and commits horrific copycat murders. She finds herself in the crosshairs of this fiend while her friends all start falling victim one by one and a mysterious homicide cop (Jurgen Prochnow) from her past begins to open new investigations.
This is some bottom of the barrel stuff, not gonna lie. Payne and Prochnow genre pedigree amongst the newbie teenage cannon fodder but even they seem too melodramatic for this. I will say it has a cool atmosphere though, and anything to do with the Ripper legacy will always be fascinating.
The Hughes Brothers’ From Hell is one one of the most opulently stylish horror films out there, and despite being a bit melodramatic in areas, it boasts a grim, severely menacing atmosphere which is mandatory considering it focuses on the Jack The Ripper murders in Victorian era London. Based on a drab graphic novel by the great Alan Moore, The Hughes have amped up both suspense and passion and could be accused of Hollywood-izing Moore’s work too much, but the guy just doesn’t write very adaptable material and some liberties have to be taken to make watchable films. This one works better on its own terms, a dark, blood soaked detective story starring Johnny Depp as Frederick Abberline, a brilliant opium addicted Scotland Yard inspector out to nab the Ripper, with the help of his trusty boss Sgt. Godley, played by a scene stealing Robbie ‘Hagrid’ Coltrane. As we all know, the Ripper murders were never really solved, so naturally here a fictitious conspiracy is whipped up, full of intrigue and corruption, but as many cluttered subplots there are flying about, the film’s strength lies in the eerie murders carried out in nocturnal London, and Depp’s very strong performance as the drugged out cop who won’t quit. Supporting work comes from lovely Heather Graham as prostitute and love interest Mary Kelly, Ian Holm as London’s top medical consultant as well as Jason Flemyng, Ian Richardson, Katrin Cartlidge, Ian McNeice, Sophia Myles, Dominic Cooper and scene stealer David Schofield as an evil East End pimp. Some of the fat could have been trimmed here to make this a shorter, more streamlined experience, but the visual element is so damn good that at the same time one can’t get enough of the lavish production design. This one succeeds in creating a lived in London with dimension and scope, as well as staging a very effective sense of dread and danger lurking around every corner of every cobblestone alleyway, the atmosphere is just unreal, as well as the supremely graphic gore that lets us plainly know that the Ripper wasn’t just messing about, he was an actual monster. Great stuff.