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From Hell

I like a film with a moral, and the new Johnny Depp / Heather Graham fright fest From Hell sends an important message to the children of today:

Don't be a whore! Or you'll get butchered beyond recognition by a maniacal serial killer!

I can only hope this important message finds the children who need to hear it most.

From Hell is the story of Jack the Ripper. It is dark, it is dreary, it is at times violent and at times simply creepy. Johnny Depp stars as Inspector Abberline, the poor sod stuck with cleaning up after Jack's various displays of human butchery. He soon learns that all of Jack's victims belong to a small group of hooker friends that includes Heather Graham. Guess which hooker friend is the last victim stalked?

>From Hell follows, quite faithfully actually, Alan Moore's graphic novel (that's comic book to you and me) of the same name, and The Hughes Brothers do a fine job directing a comic book without making it look like they're directing a comic book. This baby has style coming out of its ears, and it is all rather nifty. Creepy mist-filled London streets. Stylistic camera motions. Red skies at night. (Oh oh. Oh oh oh oh-oh oh-oh-oh.)

Being a total conspiracy nut, I dug the movie on a bunch of levels. The film's version of just who Jack the Ripper was and what exactly he was doing was darned cool. Having Johnny Depp down a shot of absinthe topped with laudanum from time to time also kept us on our toes. It is an interesting film that dares to make the good guys drug addicts and prostitutes.

Johnny Depp is, as usual, great. The man can act, and don't you forget it. It takes someone with his skill to give us a drug addicted inspector who gets into the case by having drug-induced 'visions' and make it totally, utterly, work.

Meanwhile, someone needs to tell Heather Graham to stop with the dieting and put on some weight. There was a time, not that long ago (Swingers, Boogie Nights) when Heather Graham was totally hot. It made up for the fact that she really isn't the greatest actress in the world. But somewhere between Austin Powers 2 and Say It Isn't So she lost like seventy thousand pounds or something and became a damn stick. Now she's about as attractive as Dave Letterman's Mom.

The film is pleasantly littered with colorful characters, from Ian Holm's elder physician to Robbie Coltrane's side-kick detective. But accolades must specifically go out to Ian McNeice as the rather weak-stomached police surgeon. Brilliant.

This movie has its share of gore, and yet it's also amazingly effective frightening us with flashes of imagery, the tiniest glimpse of a knife, the lowering of carriage steps. The directors, The Hughes Brothers, have a knack, and they get to just direct all over this movie.

And yet, for all the good things going for it, the movie doesn't quite work. Something is missing, though I can't put my finger on just exactly what. The story was very involving, the film was visually stunning, the performances were first rate (aside from stick woman) and yet there were many moments when I simply wasn't drawn into the movie. I was looking around the theater, drinking my soda, searching the aisles in front of me for babes.

And you know, a movie shouldn't have to resort to a spine-tingling scream as a knife slashes down into a hooker to catch my attention. I should already be involved.

From Hell picks up 3 1/4 Babylons. It really wanted more, closest to 4 if not more, but we can't always get what we want. Even a film about a knife-wielding, prostitute-slaying mad man can have trouble spots.

Editor's Note:

I think what the SMC is missing is a clue. Oh, and thanks to the 734 different people who emailed me with Magic Eye suggestions. I am still trying.

From Hell
Rated: R
Directed By: Albert and Allen Hughes
Starring: Johnny Depp, Heather Graham, Ian Holm, Robbie Coltrane, Ian Richardson , Paul Rhys, Ian McNeice, Katrin Cartlidge, Ian Fleming, Ian McKellen, Ian Ian and Oh Holy Ian of the Morning.

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