1 November 2013 | edm-the_red
I'm pretty much a fan of Johnny Depp, as I usually appreciate his performance regardless of my ultimate opinion of the movie itself. Sleepy Hollow was a masterful re-envisioning of the classic story of Ichabod Crane, featuring a nice blend of mystery & horror. From Hell seemed like a natural extension of this character archetype, with a loosely-based historical inspiration, adding weight to the horrific scenarios that it depicts. With that in mind, I decided to check it out.
There are many things that are done right in this movie, number one being the atmosphere. London is gray, rainy, & dark, and its desperate citizens reflect this foreboding setting well. The women whore themselves out for an extra cent, while the men retain control through intimidation & violence. Racial tensions, corrupt officials, and secret societies complicate the picture, and the actors in their elaborate costumes capture the unrest perfectly. As the film is a work of historical fiction, it takes liberties in the portrayal of certain events/facts, but only for the purpose of increasing the dramatic potential of the plot. In fact, these little deviations in historical accuracy felt very creative, and mostly fit in with the ambiguous nature of one the most infamous unsolved mysteries.
The faults, while noticeable, are not disqualifying. The characters are played well, despite being mostly unremarkable to begin with. Depp's Inspector Abberline is likable, though his behavior is inconsistent. As an opium addict, he seems content to waste away his life in an altered state, yet jumps into action without hesitation, and utterly dedicates himself to risk life and limb tracking down a vicious serial killer & sifting through the lies that keep him so elusive. This also serves to make his relationship with Heather Graham, as the female lead, seem slightly artificial. The visionary, opium-induced haze that enables him to keep pace with the killer was an interesting touch, but wasn't utilized to its full potential, in my opinion. Also, the killer's character is not developed enough, and so comes across as "cartoonishly" scary, lacking in realism.
Ultimately, this is a tense thriller that will captivate your attention, with a unique interpretation of the Jack the Ripper mythos.