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Film / From Hell

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From Hell is a 2001 thriller directed by the Hughes Brothers, starring Johnny Depp and based on the Alan Moore comic of the same name.

The film provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Attractiveness:
    • Johnny Depp as Inspector Abberline is more attractive than how he was in real life, or how he was drawn in the comic, where he's based on Robbie Coltrane. Ironically, Coltrane was cast in a different role.
    • A phenomenal case of Comically Missing the Point is that the prostitutes/victims are far more attractive than in the realistic book where they look just like underfed women who live in slums would look like. Moore specifically denounced this trope when portraying them in the book, taking away the exploitation aspect in representing them which this film enforces with a straight face.
  • Afterlife Express: Discussed. Sergeant Godley is curious about the custom of placing coins on a dead person's eyes. Inspector Abberline explains that the coins are to pay the ferryman who takes people across a river to the land of the dead.
  • Artistic License Law: According to this film, the murders carried out by Jack the Ripper were to cover up the fact that Prince Albert Victor secretly married Ann Crook, a Catholic, and their daughter Alice is the legitimate heiress to the British throne. Except that due to various laws, no, she definitely isn't. A) The Royal Marriages Act meant that members of the British royal family needed permission from the reigning monarch to marry; since Albert certainly didn't have said permission, the marriage is automatically null and void, and any children that came from it would be bastards. B) Even if Albert had somehow gotten permission to marry Ann, the fact that she's Catholic would automatically remove him and his heirs from the succession, according to the Act of Settlement. The comic book doesn't have such an issue, as in it the murders are done simply to stop the scandal of the Prince having a secret marriage and child with a commoner becoming public knowledge.
  • Artistic License Medicine: Ann Crook is lobotomized to keep her from spilling the truth. However, lobotomies weren't actually practiced until the 1930s, and the patient was usually awake during the procedure. In the graphic novel, Gull just damaged/removed Anne's thyroid gland.
  • And I Must Scream: Ann is Bound and Gagged, sedated and used for a lobotomy demonstration.
  • Babies Ever After: Mary Kelly escapes to Ireland and raises Albert and Ann's child Alice as her own in peace.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Depp's character gains access to Ben Kidney's office by intimidating the night porter.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Gull and his fellow Freemason conspirators evade justice, but Gull gets a lobotomy from them. Mary Kelly survives thanks to a case of mistaken identity, and returns to Ireland with Ann's child, safe from Gull, the Freemasons and the government, sending a letter to inform Abberline of this. Unfortunately, Abberline cannot reunite with her without risking their safety, being under the watchful eye of the Freemasons, and kills himself from an overdose out of a combination of protecting them and despair.
  • Black Eyes of Evil: Sir William Gull a.k.a Jack the Ripper shows these for a moment.
  • Butch Lesbian: Liz is this in comparison to her friend and lover Ada.
  • Bury Your Gays: Both Liz and Ada meet grisly deaths together not long after being intimate with each other.
  • Composite Character: Johnny Depp's character is a cross between Abberline and Robert Lees, though physically he resembles Prince Eddy more closely.
  • Connect the Deaths: Inspector Abberline does this on a map.
  • Contrast Montage: A montage contrasts the life of William Gull (the Queen's surgeon) and Mary Kelly (a prostitute), showing how unfair Victorian life is.
  • Death by Childbirth: Abberline's wife died giving birth to their son.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Abberline, in the end, forced to let go of Mary Kelly because he cannot reunite with her without endangering her and Ann's child.
  • Dies Wide Open: One of the victims died this way.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: A meta-subversion. One of the deleted scenes opens with a naked girl stepping out of a bath, followed by a dramatic bit having nothing to do with her. Per the commentary, the scene was deleted because the girl was so sexy, the audience was in the wrong mood for the drama.
  • Eye Scream: "I could pop your eye out... they don't care if a whore can't see."
  • Final Girl: Mary Kelly is played pretty straight as a Final Girl as she escapes Jack the Ripper and survives after all her friends have been picked off and despite the fact that the real-life Mary Kelly didn't. However, she's also a subversion in that she doesn't kill the Ripper, just manages to avoid him and, what with being a prostitute, isn't the traditionally wholesome girl either.
  • A Glass of Chianti: The villain is seen sipping blood from a wine glass.
  • Good Night, Sweet Prince: Said by Sergeant Godley after Abberline dies of a drug overdose.
  • Grapes of Luxury: Used to lure victims into the fangs of The Ripper.
  • He Knows Too Much: Ann Crook is lobotomized and hidden away in a workhouse to cover up her marriage with 'Eddy'. And then sights are set on her friends, who were all witnesses to the wedding...
  • The Hero Dies: Abberline commits suicide in the end, unable to reunite with Mary Kelly without the Freemasons becoming aware of her and Ann's child, protecting them.
  • Incompatible Orientation: Liz kisses Polly on the mouth to try to lift her spirits after her money is stolen and a distraught Polly shoves her away and curses her lesbianism.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Uttered by Liz, one of the prostitutes, before heading out for some hooch.
  • Instant Sedation: Justified, with inhaled anesthetics prior to Ann's lobotomy.
  • It's Not You, It's My Enemies: Averted, because it's rather her enemies. Abberline knows perfectly well that Mary survived, but decides not follow her to Ireland because, if it became clear that she survived that night, Mary would be hunted down and silenced.
  • Lobotomy: A man is shown demonstrating how to perform a lobotomy to a group of medical students. Several characters have had one done.
  • Lighter and Softer: The movie retains the somber mood of the original and adds some dark elements (in the graphic novel Ann Crook was not a prostitute, Abberline didn't kill himself but is an elderly narrator, Gull wasn't lobotomized (although he developed dementia and was institutionalized by Freemasons) etc. But on the whole the film is nowhere as dark as the original which tended to make Gull and Mary Kelly the protagonists and Abberline a kind of a third protagonist but stressed less than the other two. It specifically criticized the idea of a heroic "detective" solving the crime whereas Abberline is more heroic and is more active, and younger than the original. Especially the Nightmare Fuel chapter of Gull mutilating the final victim.
  • Lipstick Lesbian: Ada is this, who acts and dresses more feminine in comparison to her lover Liz.
  • Madness Mantra: Ann has several, but then again, she has had a rather extensive lobotomy.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Polly calls Liz "a pig" because Liz tried to cheer her up by kissing her and insults her being a lesbian. Liz sarcastically calls her out on it.
  • Poor Communication Kills: If only the police had warned the public about the Grapes of Luxury used by The Ripper...
  • Pragmatic Adaptation:
    • The film's one clever moment was how it efficiently replaced the visual montage of how ordinary people wrote phony letters claiming to be from Jack the Ripper with a quick scene in which the detectives read those letters with each being read with a different voice.
    • Ann Crook is rendered catatonic by being lobotomized, while in the graphic novel she had her thyroid gland damaged/removed. The process was probably changed because a lobotomy packs more of a punch, and the audience might not be aware that loss of the thyroid gland without appropriate drugs can result in impairment of mental processes - whereas pretty much everyone knows that having a chunk of your brain cut out is almost never good for you.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Subverted. Abberline gets his line in ("You're not going to see the 20th century"), then walks towards Gull, raises his gun and ... gets a Tap on the Head from Ben Kidney, whom he did not see approaching.
  • Psychic Powers: Abberline has these in the movie, linked to opium use-hallucinations were commonly thought of as divinations.
  • Red Herring: Dr. Ferral is hinted to be the Ripper, as he's the one who lobotomized Ann Crook, has a reputation as the best surgeon in London, is shown being inducted into the Free Masons, and is portrayed as cold-blooded and with a lack of feeling. In actual fact he doesn't appear to know anything about the scandal or the cover-up, and it's Gull who likely arranged for Ann to be the unlucky patient and who's been committing the murders.
  • Secret Circle of Secrets: The cult circle.
  • Scary Symbolic Shapeshifting: Late in the film, Jack the Ripper is unmasked as Sir William Gull during a confrontation with Abberline; in the middle of this conversation, Jack closes his eyes in frustration, and when he opens them again, his eyes have turned pitch-black - despite Jack being an ordinary human being and the film having no overt supernatural elements apart from Abberline's "divinations."
  • Strapped to an Operating Table: A supposedly insane woman (Ann) is used as a lobotomy demonstration for a class of medical students. Only she's not insane; she's being lobotomized to cover up a royal scandal. The 'subject' is Bound and Gagged and unable to plead for rescue.
  • Traumatic Haircut: Ann Crook had a beautiful crown of curly golden hair, but it's all but shorn off in the mental institution.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The original graphic novel is heavily based on Moore and Campbell's mountains of research and the appendices are careful to separate historical truth from semi-fictionalized conspiracy theories that simply make a good story, to outright invention on their part. The movie disregards this, and the real, historical lives of the film's characters, completely.
  • Victorian London: The setting.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: Try to guess which unfortunate girl is the future love interest. Though this is actually and surprisingly in line with history; Mary Kelly was considerably younger and prettier than the other Ripper victims.
  • Wretched Hive: London of the late 1880s as depicted certainly qualifies as one.