From Hell

How long have you chased the dragon?

A review by Mike Shea   Movie Rating: ( * * * * · )    DVD Rating: ( * * * * * )

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The story of Jack the Ripper has been told many times before, but this one is the best one I have seen so far simply because of the impressionist viewpoint. From Hell isn't a murder, it's a two hour Salvador Dali painting wrapped in blood. It's great film.

From Hell is a dark and ugly movie. There is no ounce of skin that isn't covered in sweat, no teeth that aren't caked with plaque, no piece of meat that isn't already rotten. It is a story told from the malaria filled gutters of nineteenth century London and from the eyes of an opium addict. The directors and writers describe From Hell as a movie about sexual hypocracy. Each scene is designed to show how people cannot come to grips with their urges and end up speaking one thing and doing another. Personally, I saw a slasher movie. Yes, the plot is pretty well developed and there's a speculation as to what happened, but at it's core is a slasher movie like any other. Sleepy Hollow without the silly glasses and adds the weight of five dead women torn apart by a demon. The movie keeps a bit of a supernatural tint, but it's the wonderful cinematography that does this movie proud.

Our first victim is killed just minutes into the film. We see her walking down the seedy streets avoiding the drunks mating like dogs and human decrement. A shadow overtakes her and then our vision until we see the thin blade slice one, two, three, four, five times each cut taking her muffled scream down an octave. Instead of showing us the crimes or the victims, thought we certainly get our share of gore, the directors Albert and Allen Hughes gives us dark visions covered in shadow and cut through with the silver shine of a blade. Our victim stands with an expression of curiosity but then in the transitional blackness of a cloak flowing past she is standing again with her throat slit.

The DVD of From Hell includes everything a five star DVD should have. It has a rich and sharp 2.35 to 1 16x9 enhanced picture that lets us see every oily pore of our troubled heroes. There is a Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS soundtrack that adds a whole extra layer of flies onto every murder scene. The sound was so precise it made my stomach turn as I felt I could smelled the decay. From Hell is a perfect example of a movie made ten times stronger with a good home theater system. It envelops you in the hot London air as you witness the brutal crime and mystery that follows. There is a directors commentary with the two brothers and a slew of other extras including deleted scenes and an HBO special. Hearing the soapbox standing director of the movie referring to major Hollywood studios as "a bunch of fucking assholes" only later to apologise saying "I'm rambling on now because I just hit the pipe" was refreshingly entertaining in a commentary. It's an excellent DVD.

I was reminded a lot by the movie Seven, though we never get into the lives of our characters like we did in Seven. The same atmosphere, the same level of grime and dirt. The same horrifying discovery of human decay covered in flies. From Hell ties together an expressionist view of the greatest murder mystery of all time, and it does so in a very entertaining modern film.