From Hell on Blu-ray
by Johnny Bray
If you want to see an example of a great-looking movie, look no further.
From Hell, based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell, is about one of the most famous serial killers of all time, Jack the Ripper. Though the movie itself is not overly spectacular, the look and feel of the film more than make up for it.
Johnny Depp stars as Inspector Abberline, the opium-smoking man who has psychic visions of Jack's victims. He's determined to find the killer before he slaughters any more women. Heather Graham co-stars as Mary Kelly, the woman Abberline is trying to save.
It's hard to discuss the plot of From Hell, since it's really just about Jack the Ripper. Abberline is trying to catch him before he kills Mary Kelly, and there it is.
First, let's talk about the flaws. A major flaw, and one which many films have made, is the casting of Heather Graham. Not only does she lack any acting talent whatsoever, but her beauty is out of place. Every other woman in the movie is entirely unattractive, so it doesn't look right to have one beauty in the lot. I realize she's the female lead and we're supposed to have sympathy for her, but it wouldn't have been as bad if it weren't Heather Graham here.
Another flaw is the fact that Abberline is an opium smoker. When I saw the movie in the theatre, there was a group of stoners sitting not far behind me that laughed like Beavis and Butthead every time Abberline started smoking. That's the only reason I disagree with it. I actually think it's good for the hero to have a flaw, so being addicted to opium is a good one (when you take into account the time the movie is set).
Finally, the movie just doesn't quite connect as a whole. It's entertaining enough, but there's something I can't put my finger on. It seems like there's a better movie in there somewhere that got lost along the way.
Now, onto the good points. The casting of Johnny Depp is always a bonus for a movie. He's one of those actors who seems incapable of a bad performance, and he can sink himself into a character better than most. Veterans Ian Holm and Robbie Coltrane are also excellent in supporting roles.
From Hell is one of the best-looking movies I've seen in a long time. It's set in the White Chapel District in London, and the production designers built the entire set in a field outside Prague. It looks exactly as you'd expect a poverty-stricken area of 1880s London to look, complete with cobblestone streets, and buildings that look as authentic as the originals.
Lastly, the directing by Allen and Albert Hughes is nothing short of Oscar-worthy. The film is appropriately dark and creepy, and the brothers have done an excellent job in every respect.
From Hell may not be the greatest movie in the world, but it's definitely worth seeing. Some people may be a little thrown off by the gore, but it's not as bad as it could have been. Highly recommended for horror movie buffs.
The Blu-ray disc is presented in 1080p, 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, and the quality is outstanding. It's a dark movie, so darks are considerably darker than the lights are light (well, duh!), and there are no foreign objects, grain, fuzz - nothing. It's a beautiful transfer.
For the audio track, Fox has given us dts HD 5.1 Master Lossless audio, and it sounds great. The whooshing knife blades and chilling score surround you and engulf you in the film, the dynamic range is wide, and the speakers get a nice workout.
Extras include a full length commentary by the directors, Allen and Albert Hughes, screenwriter Rafael Yglesias, cinematographer Peter Deming and actor Robbie Coltrane. You also get some 20 deleted scenes and an alternate ending. Some of the deleted scenes are very good, but I agree with them having been cut. I also liked the alternate ending and can't quite decide which I like more. All come with optional commentary by Albert Hughes.
You also get the trailer and a trivia track.
From Hell, from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.