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"From Hell"

Directed by Albert and Allen Hughes.
Written by Terry Hayes and Rafael Yglesias.
Starring Johnny Depp and Heather Graham.
Release Year:  2001 
Review Date:  10/26/01 


I continued my tour of San Francisco's movie theaters this afternoon by hitting a matinee at the United Artists Coronet theater here in town, and friends--this theater is a top-three.  Wow, wow, wow.  No disrespect to the Uptown Theater in Washington, but this theater surpasses it.  How?  Well, to be honest, it is because the Coronet seats about 25% more people than the Uptown does, so that should tell you how big this mamma-jamma is.  My current top three are the Neptune in Seattle, the Uptown in DC and now this theater.  Wow, and it's a fifteen-minute walk from my apartment.

So, was the movie as good as the theater?  I was intrigued by this film originally for two reasons:  the Hughes brothers, and Johnny Depp.  The Hughes brothers (Allen and Albert) have traditionally directed urban fare (read: black movies) and their best work thus far is probably "Menace II Society"...although, "American Pimp" does have its moments.  So, directing a horror-thriller set in 1888 London is far from shooting in South Central LA.  And, why Depp?  This role looks like it is EXACTLY THE SAME as his role in Tim Burton's 1999 horror-thriller "Sleepy Hollow."  I was shocked that he would play a part so similar to this role from the recent past.

And, I can see now why the three men worked this project--pretty cool stuff.  Mind you, now, this film is bloody.  By "bloody", I don't mean like "Oh man, her neck is bleeding."  I mean "Good Lord!  Are those her intestines wrapped around her own throat?"  I mean this is some sick stuff, and it should be understood that you don't go to the theater just after a turkey dinner.  But this film is already my front-runner for the winner of the Best Sounds Effects Editing Oscar, because the sound in this film is spectacular.  The sound effects of people getting cut up is one thing, but it seems like the Hughes brothers went out and got the sounds of what each internal organ would sound like if they were thrown to the ground.  Whoa.  And, I am going to hear the sound of those horse carriage steps hitting the cobblestone in my sleep tonight!!

(It should be noted right here, though, that in extensive tests with real-life sharp knives, the staff here at Bellview--me--has not been able to replicate the same sound effect of pulling a knife out and swinging it through the air.  Try it the next time you are about to cut up vegetables at home.  Just wave it around, then practice pulling the knife out of your pocket.  See?  All you hear is air.  Why do moviemakers think that they can fool me?  I KNOW that knife can't make that noise just when you pull it out of your pocket!  It's all a sham!)

Heather Graham appears in this movie also, and for the 15th consecutive time, she

  1. plays a character that is somehow employed by or obsessed with sexual endeavors.  This time, she's a whore.

  2. denies the 17-21 year-old male public the chance to see her breasts in the buff.  Congratulations to my good friend Brandon Pugh, who called this one once again.  High-priced actresses can be such divas!  You are playing a whore, for Chrissakes!  Get naked!

The film is a little long, but for the most part it does a good job of keeping things interesting by killing off other whores periodically, just like the real Jack the Ripper did in the 19th century.  The attempt at romance between Graham's whore and Depp's investigator is a bit of a stretch--romance amongst arguably the most brutal killings in the last 200 years of London's history?--but it makes the film palatable.  And, I liked its ending for not being overly storybook.  A good time at the movies, if you have got the stomach for it.

Rating:  $8.25 Show


Comments?  Drop me a line at


Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09