From Hell (Blu-ray)

January 28, 2012 8 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

The streets of the Whitechapel district of London have always been dangerous, but never to this level of extreme panic. The area is populated by the lower classes, the poor, criminals, prostitutes, and assorted other dark characters. But some of these inhabitants have been turning up dead, slashed and murdered, then left in the streets. Mary Kelly (Heather Graham) is a streetwalker in the region and while she is hassled by police & street toughs, her greatest fear lies in the shadows of each alley she passes. As the days have passed, she has already lost friends to the hands of the mysterious killer known as Jack the Ripper, which has her worried that she could be next, never sure if she’ll see the next sunrise. At the same time, Frederick Abberline (Johnny Depp) works to solve the crimes and finds himself immersed inside a dark, unexplainable world. His mind is clouded by visions of clairvoyance, as well as absinthe, which makes him a little unbalanced, to say the very least. As Abberline becomes involved with Mary, his search for the killer intensifies, but can he, or anyone else actually end this reign of terror?

I was kind of surprised to find out that Albert & Allen Hughes were involved in a film about Jack the Ripper, but I was still interested in From Hell. I knew the previous work from them was excellent, so I had faith in this one also and as it turns out, the Hughes have proven they deserve a ton of respect as filmmakers. From Hell is bathed in darkness, which seems to be the right choice, as it paints the characters, backdrops, and events seen in the picture. This darkness cloaks some outstanding production design work, including an entire urban landscape, as well as some terrific costume and makeup elements. The pace moves slow enough to keep up the tension, but quickly enough to keep audiences involved, a perfect example of how to pace a mystery/thriller, if you ask this reviewer. The story has some issues, especially if you want historical accuracy, but it is well crafted nonetheless, even with some flaws evident. The performances also have some hiccups, but I think Graham, Depp, and Coltrane provide terrific leads, while a more than able supporting cast handles the smaller ones. I think this is one great movie, with some out of this world visuals & atmosphere, which is all bolstered in this Blu-ray release. The lack of extras is sure to disgruntle fans, but the transfer and soundtrack are much improved, so this is the best way to see From Hell.

I’ve often been less than impressed with the work of Heather Graham, but I’ve never doubted her looks or presence, which have gotten her by at times, to be sure. But in From Hell, she made some real strides in winning me as a fan and by fan, I mean someone who enjoys her performances, not just her physical gifts. Yes, she looks stunning here and her switch to red suits her very well, but she matches her beauty with talent here, in easily her finest turn to date. She has to be subtle here, as her character is gritty and realistic, so her usual wide-eyed, empty-headed routine wouldn’t cut it, which is why I had some doubts. But she comes up in the clutch and nails the role at every turn, even in the most reserved, tense moments, this is an impressive effort. Other films with Graham include Boogie Nights, Say It Isn’t So, Lost in Space, Sidewalks of New York, Swingers, and Bowfinger. The cast also includes Johnny Depp (Sleepy Hollow, The Ninth Gate), Robbie Coltrane (The World is Not Enough, GoldenEye), Ian Richardson (Dark City, Brazil), and Ian Holm (The Fifth Element, The Sweet Hereafter).

Video: How does it look?

From Hell is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. I wasn’t sure how this movie would come off in high definition, but this is a more than impressive presentation. The image has a film-like sheen, so there is some grain evident, but the visuals are sharp and refined. The level of detail isn’t always astonishing, but it is at times and overall, depth is remarkable. I do think contrast is too dark here however, as some scenes seem to cloak subtle details. This isn’t a massive concern, but it is noticeable and as such, worth a mention here. But colors look excellent, with vivid reds and greens that never waver in the slightest. A few chinks can be found in the armor, but the movie still looks terrific here.

Audio: How does it sound?

This is a Fox release and as such, a lossless DTS HD 5.1 option is on deck. I didn’t expect much of a step up in this area, but in truth, the audio is even more impressive than the visuals. The audio has a more subtle approach, with slow, deep bass and atmospheric presence, but it can also show off some power. I was stunned at how immersive the soundtrack was at times, with directional use that put you right in the middle of Whitechapel. No issues arise in terms of dialogue, as vocals remain clear and the musical score is flawless in this presentation. This disc also includes Spanish and French language tracks, as well as subtitles in English and Spanish.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This disc doesn’t include all of the supplements from the two disc standard release, but some of the goodies have been transported over at least. You’ll find a great audio commentary track here, with directors Albert & Allen Hughes, screenwriter Rafael Yglesias, cinematographer Peter Deming, and actor Robbie Coltrane. As always, the Hughes brothers provide an informative, but also entertaining session, while the others contribute a lot of information also, this is one terrific session. Also on this first disc is a selection of deleted scenes, which total about twenty and include an alternate end sequence. You can choose to listen to Albert Hughes discuss the deleted material, or simply view the scenes without his insight. This disc also includes a trivia track, as well as the film’s theatrical trailer.

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