From Hell

Updated February 11, 2017 | Infoplease Staff
Director:Hughes Brothers
Writers:Terry Hayes and Rafael Yglesias
20th Century Fox; R; 120 minutes
Cast:Johnny Depp, Heather Graham, Ian Holm

There's no mistake that From Hell arrives in time for Halloween. It's a bloodstained, ambience-soaked take on Jack the Ripper, the infamous London criminal who sliced up his victims with surgical skill. The Hughes Brothers leave the 'hood where most of their films take place (Menace II Society, Dead Presidents) and transfer the dread to Victorian London slums quite successfully.

The world they create is gray, grimy, and menacing. The hero?an investigator played by Johnny Depp?muddles about in a druggy haze for much of the picture, although he's lucid enough to develop feelings for Mary Kelly, an Irish prostitute played by Heather Graham. Kelley and her companions are being systemically cut-down by the Ripper.

What From Hell really gets right is the mood: it's chilling camp, a similar species of melodrama that populated Depp-vehicle Sleepy Hollow. The Hughes Brothers are in their element, drawing good performances and using both understatement and explicit violence to depict the proceedings. It's biggest flaw is that the film tidily wraps up an unsolved historical mystery, when the real-life cliffhanger ending would have been far most unsettling.

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