Follow TV Tropes


Film / The Limehouse Golem

Go To
Before the Ripper, fear had another name.

The Limehouse Golem is a 2016 British Historical Detective Fiction film starring Bill Nighy. It is a film adaptation to the 1994 novel Dan Leno & the Limehouse Golem by Peter Ackroyd.

It's 1880, and a plague of mysterious murders has gripped London in fear. The crimes are noted for their brutality and seeming randomness. Due to certain calling cards, the killer has been dubbed the Limehouse Golem. It's up to a Scotland Yard detective to stop the madness.

This film contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Lizzie's mother was so abusive that her response to her daughter being raped is to burn her genitals with a hot poker.
  • Acquitted Too Late: Played with. It is 'revealed' John Cree is the Golem, which would have spared Lizzie hanging for his murder....except he wasn't. Lizzie is, and she wanted it to be revealed so she could achieve the fame she hungered for.
  • Adaptational Alternate Ending: A slight one. The movie has John Cree to be 'revealed' as the Limehouse Golem, while in the book, as far as the public knows, the murders of the Limehouse Golem remain unsolved.
  • Antagonist Title
  • Beneath Suspicion: Kildair spends the film investigating the only four men who visited the library containing the Limehouse Golem's hidden journal in the right timeframe to record its last entry. None of them are guilty. While only those four men visited the library that day, the librarian never thinks to mention Lizzie and several other women who visited the library.
  • Big Bad: Lizzie Cree is the killer.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Golem's rampage is stopped, and Lizzie hangs for her crimes without achieving the fame she craved. However, the Golem manages a last post-mortem 'fuck you' to a rival that results in her death and Kildare is so traumatized he retires.
  • Bondage Is Bad: The only character who expresses interest in BDSM is a sleazy theatre troupe boss who threatens to fire women if they don't beat him.
  • Catchphrase: The line "Here we are again!" is found written in the Golem's diary. As it is also Dan Leno's catchphrase, this throws suspicion on him, although as Kildaire notes, everyone in London seems to be familiar with Leno's act.
  • Criminal Mind Games: The Golem likes to taunt the police with messages in Latin claiming the public are just as guilty as the murderer for being fascinated by the murders.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The misogyny of Victorian England is laid bare in this film.
  • Depraved Dwarf: Little Victor, a fellow member of Lizzie's acting troupe, is a giant pervert who sexually harasses all the female performers.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: The Golem's initial victims are prostitutes, which results in the murders being taken perhaps less seriously than they should until the killer graduates.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The Golem tends to answer any slight with violent murder.
  • Domestic Abuse: John Cree seems like a great person, but he's known to be a white knight only concerned with his reputation, and is an emotionally abusive rapist in his private life. Maybe. See Unreliable Narrator below.
  • The Dulcinea Effect: The likes of John Cree and Inspector Killdare feel this towards Lizzie, as lampshaded by Lizzie herself.
    Lizzie: I seem to ignite the [protective] urge in men.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Say what you will about the Golem, she faces death without showing fear.
  • Fame Through Infamy: The Golem's murders are motivated by a desire for fame. It doesn't work, as Inspector Killdare destroys her confession and leaves her to hang for supposedly killing the real Golem, where she wanted a reputation that would stand on its own.
  • Foreshadowing: During her trial, Lizzie tells Killdare that she wants to stand on her own without her name being tied to her husband. When Killdare realises that she is the Golem, he deliberately delays revealing anything to his superiors, allowing her to die while the public believe that she just killed the real Golem, giving her fame that is only relevant because of John Cree rather than because she is famous on her own.
  • Freudian Excuse: Subverted. Lizzie Cree was raped as a child, physically abused by her mother when she found out, had her acting career ruined by malicious coworkers, was sexually harassed by her boss and got married to an emotionally abusive rapist. However, none of this had anything to do with her killings, which were motivated entirely by a desire for fame, and her Unreliable Narrator status means that some of these might have been exaggerated.
  • Historical Domain Character: Karl Marx is considered as a suspect in the killings, but quickly exonerated. George Gissing and Dan Leno were also real life people.
  • Hollywood Law: Lizzie is sentenced to hang the every next day after she's convicted, necessitating that Kildare race to get her pardoned. However, hangings could not be carried out until three weeks had passed, giving the defendant time to appeal (although this rarely worked).
  • Karma Houdini: The dockworker who rapes Lizzie as a child gets away scot free and is never seen again after his scene.
  • Predecessor Villain: As the film is set before even Jack the Ripper, the only knowledge our heroes have about serial killers is based on John Williams, the Real Life committer of the Ratcliff Highway murders from sixty years before. The Golem also cites Williams as an inspiration.
  • Promoted to Scapegoat: The gay Inspector Kildare is made lead detective in the investigation by his homophobic superior so that he'll take the blame for failing to catch the serial killer rather than the Yard's "golden boy". Instead, he manages to close the case.
  • Slasher Smile: The Golem wears one when cornering a woman and her child, adding "Here we are again!" for good measure.
  • The Sociopath: Lizzie Cree, who murders various prostitutes and frames her husband so she can be exposed and receive Fame Through Infamy.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Lizzie often goes out dressed as a man to enjoy freedom that a Victorian woman lacks. She's used to this, having worked as a drag king while at the dance hall. She also commits some murders this way.
  • Unreliable Narrator: With the reveal that Lizzie is the Golem, her letters and recollections are thrown greatly in doubt.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The Golem happily butchers children.