‘From Hell’: Murder, madness and class conflict

Jack the Ripper remains the most notorious and enigmatic serial killer in history. For those who only have a vague recollection of who The Ripper was, he committed five heinous, ritualistic murders during a ten-week span in London in the fall of 1888. His crimes created a frenzied atmosphere of gossip, rumor and terror. He was never caught. Hundreds of investigators and fans of sociopathy have conjured up dozens of theories about The Ripper's true identity and his motives for committing the crimes for which he is accused.

“From Hell” is a portrayal of one theory detailed in Alan Moore's graphic novel with the same title.

Johnny Depp (“Blow,” “Chocolat”) portrays the role of Inspector Fred Abberline, the movie's crime-fighting hero who has a chronic opium habit that helps numb the pain he suffers after the death his wife and child. His recreational activities enable him to have prophetic hallucinations that help him track down the infamous cold-blooded killer. The title comes from the return address The Ripper penned about people who are in hell trying to survive the grimmest circumstances.

Heather Graham (“Boogie Nights,” “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me”) plays Mary Kelly, one of five impoverished prostitutes who share a desperate friendship, brought together as their ranks are terrorized by a gruesome murderer. They exist on the edge, earning a meager living with their bodies in a society that concurrently dishonors and feeds upon them. Mary helps Inspector Abberline piece together the mystery behind the murder of her friends on the streets of Whitechaple, London's hangout for the impoverished.

“ From Hell” puts an intense, psychological spin on the horrific legend of Jack the Ripper and unravels a chilling alleged conspiracy involving the highest powers in England. The movie provides a realistic perspective of the people who lived in poverty in the neighborhood where this terror was inflicted. The movie's underlying issues include a vague illustration of the birth of tabloid media sensationalism and a crash course in class struggles during late 19th-century London. Was The Ripper a member of the working class who killed for cheap thrills, or was he a member of the wealthy class, ridding society of the unfortunates?”

Given the plot, it could've been bloodier but it wasn't, and that's very effective in putting the focus on the issues the movie addresses other than the gore-factor of the crimes. In the first few scenes where Mary and Inspector Abberline interact, there are undertones of a love story, but that never transpires. The reasons why their relationship never escalates in and of itself illustrates the overwhelming power and influence of the wealthy class over the lower classes.