By far the best horror film based on the OG of serial killers, Jack the Ripper is the 2001 film From Hell. Change my mind! You won’t be able to. This film is a gothic beauty and is probably the most well-written and executed conspiracy theory about the still unknown identity of Jack the Ripper. The thing is, From Hell doesn’t play out like a typical mystery film. It dives into the consequences of classism. Poverty, prostitution, sex trafficking, displays of power, addiction, grief, racism, antisemitism, sexism are all of humanity’s complex social behaviors. It’s infuriating! The film is a hodge-podge of horror, mystery, and a sprinkle of history. I have been watching From Hell since it came out on DVD. It’s become part of my October “must watch,” and it’s one of my favorites to watch on a rainy day. In fact, it is an overall favorite movie of mine. It’s just one I keep a secret. This movie is seriously underrated, but that’s part of the appeal, or is it part of the conspiracy? To keep the truth from public knowledge.
I discover something new about the movie almost every time I watch it. The film is based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell. Around 2010 I discovered Albert Hughes and Allen Hughes (aka The Hughes Brothers) directed the film. Don’t ask me why they seem to want to be named individually instead of the Hughes Brothers as they did in the past. I didn’t look into it that much. I knew The Hughes Brothers from their earlier films Dead Presidents and Menace II Society. Now (well, back in 2001), they had directed a horror film based on one of England’s most famous serial killers. It was exciting to discover that black directors had created one of my long-time favorite horror movies. As the years passed while watching From Hell, I often wondered why no one in the Horror world was talking about it more. The few horror fans I was on speaking terms with sometimes knew about the film when I remembered to ask. It’s funny how it’s almost immediately forgotten when the subject comes up as the conversation goes on. Usually, people say, “oh, that’s the one with Johnny Depp and Hagrid, right?” It’s always a fuzzy conversation and one I always forget to revisit.
I wanted to finally express how I feel about From Hell because of what’s happening to women in America once more. The patriarchy, once again, is fearful of the current state of the world. When Conservatives are afraid, they punish and utilize privilege and power as a show of force. SCOTUS just drafted an opinion, which will be enacted, to overturn Roe vs. Wade. Texas’s enactment of the The Heartbeat Law, the law that makes it illegal for women to obtain an abortion after six weeks, demonstrates authoritarian sexism. Transgender kids are being criminalized for seeing transition treatment. All of this It sets women, especially women of color back decades. It emboldens white supremacy even further since women of color make up the majority of patients who utilize Planned Parenthood and The Afiya Center similar women’s health centers, not solely for abortions, but for overall women’s health services. This is only the beginning of the conservative’s agenda to restrict human rights against women,
So why did this make me think of From Hell?
This story’s movie is centered around a circle of friends who historically were Jack the Ripper’s actual victims, though there is no evidence that this circle of friends was acquainted in real life. The film intensifies the story with a gang of prostitutes who are simply trying to survive the day-to-day life of being born into poverty as women.
Then the killing begins. The first murder is presented to the intuitive Inspector Frederick Abberline (Johnny Depp), who has already foreseen a murder of an unfortunate woman in a laudanum-induced dream. I love this character because he doesn’t put himself above anyone else. He advocates and strives to protect the women, especially Mary Kelley (Heather Graham), and find out who is picking off the victims in the film. He also longs to find out the killer’s motivations. Unlike his superiors and beat cops, Abberline finds the women worthy of life. He ends up falling for Mary Kelly towards the end. I didn’t need the gratuitous love story, but it works.
The blood spree resulted from Ann Crook and Prince Albert falling in love and producing a baby. Prince Albert was a man-whore but fell for Ann. Albert never revealed to Ann that he was, in fact, heir to the throne of England. He wanted her to love him for who he was. This is why she’s kidnapped by the special services and lobotomized. Thanks to the company of Anne’s “unfortunate” friends, Baby Alice was spared from The Ripper’s lister knife. Mary Kelly, the only survivor of the circle of friends, keeps Baby Alice safe when the Ripper’s work is completed. !Spoiler! Ripper himself is eliminated by the same people who hired him to kill the women.
Long story short, we discover that Jack the Ripper was one of many prestigious physicians directed by the Royal Hierarchy to erase these women -witnesses to Prince Albert and Ann Crook’s marriage. The Ripper’s activities turned their noses up to the brutal killings. They couldn’t believe how “out of his mind” he was, but he didn’t get in the way of completing his work. That sustained until the very end. His identity was kept hidden because it was inappropriate for the general public to believe a man of such high class would be capable of such torture and brutality. Once he completed his job, The Ripper was stripped of his title and endured the same fate as Anne Crook. The film suggests this is why Jack the Ripper’s identity has not been revealed. Immortal bastard!
Baby Alice would’ve been heir to the throne if she hadn’t been born of a whore’s womb. Think about that. Ann Crook was lobotomized, her friends murdered at the command of Queen Elizabeth, on the down-low, to ensure that the royal bloodline stayed clean and pure. Whether they work towards betterment, people living in poverty – then and now – are not given a chance to live better lives. They are not seen as human beings but dirty vermin that exist only to steal wealth from the wealthy.
Comparing the plot of From Hell to today, we have the wealthy seeking to infect the moon and other planets with humans gathered in giant dick-shaped space crafts. Meanwhile, our planet is screaming in pain due to our infection. Here on earth, on the ground, humans are suffering on the streets while 5.5 billion dollar football stadiums are built nearby, taunting those who need the most help. And let’s not forget the cruel attempts SCOTUS, Texas and the other Red States are making to silence and oppress women.
A common saying goes that sex work is considered the oldest profession, yet it also happens to be one where the workers are often the most exploited. Exploitation and safety on the job is a constant problem, with little protection. A system embedded with patriarchy and male supremacy doesn’t leave much space, without a fight, for women to be in complete control of their bodies and livelihoods. – Peoplesworld.org
Not much has changed since 1888.
I remember being taught to fear and ridicule the unhoused. I was taught to look down on women who used their bodies to make money. That was until I became a mother at a young age and struggled at times to provide for my kids. I considered stripping, prostitution, selling drugs, committing fraud, all to keep my kids in daycare. Would you have looked at me like a dirty, thieving unfortunate if I had?
Even though those days are well behind me, they taught me to empathize and advocate with trans women, women of color, when they do whatever it takes to survive. I have compassion for the unhoused. I live a life of privilege now, but it pains me to see other women with privilege and money shit on women who do whatever it takes to stay alive and obtain basic human needs. Years back, I remember seeing a Facebook post from a notorious “Karen” from Rancho Cucamonga, California, having a bitch fit about ONE unhoused person walking down Haven. She blamed our open borders, Obamacare, Obama himself, affirmative action, every white privilege delusion of why Rancho would soon be invaded with “bums.”
Another woman was shitting on someone who had less than her. She continued to vomit things like, “They are coming to rape and steal from the community!” She didn’t think about how her behavior, outlook, and a false sense of entitlement were more filthy than that single unhoused person. It took more effort to talk shit about this defenseless human being than offering that person a meal or care package. Tell these women a friend of theirs has a form of cancer though, she would have organized meals on wheels, car wash, and community parade but only if it was someone within her status. I wouldn’t have had a parade in my honor if it had been me that had cancer. That was because I rented my home and didn’t spend hundreds on Lululemon. These women even shit on me for not being exactly like them, and I considered myself privileged at the time. I had more of everything than I had ever had in my life, but I was still scum to them. I wonder if the wealthy and upper-middle-class do succeed in eliminating the unhoused, people of color, immigrants, and weirdos – who and what kind of threatening humans would they invent to be “Better Than.”
The answer to that is, that they restrict abortion rights and further add to the socio-economic crisis. When these “saved babies” grow up, they often become the same people the pro-life idiots exploit on facebook living on the streets, addicted, suffering, and blaming them for their property value going down. Just like the women in the movie and baby Alice.
Sir Charles Warren (Ian Richardson) who was in on the Ripper murders. He literally said, “It doesn’t matter to me; the fewer pinch pricks on the street, the better.” He didn’t care that these women could feel their throats being slit. He didn’t care that these women were being disemboweled and having their wombs removed. They weren’t human and deserved what was happening to them to him. Again, instead of protecting them, he defended the royal family, his status, and ignorance. He fucking knew who was butchering the women, yet he continued to blame Jews and even more idiotic “Red Indians” who made their way into White Chapel from America.” Only Trump and his supporters could come up with such bile. And they have.
In the film, Inspector Frederick Abberline chases the dragon. A man struck with grief, yet he is still a respected member of his police force and community. His addiction is covered up by his counterpart, Sergeant Peter Godley (Robby Coltrane). Again, I love Abberline’s character. I love Johnny’s portrayal, but Abberline’s character is problematic. His addiction enhanced his premonition, his visions that ultimately kept up with The Ripper’s agenda. It was ok for him, a privileged man, to be addicted. He is found worthy of rehabilitation and healing, but the women in the film are not. Abberline wasn’t condemned for his drug affliction; he was condemned for siding with the unfortunate women, especially Mary Kelly. Why was it ok that Abberline’s addiction was dismissed because he was grieving when the women in the movie grieved for their own children, for their dignity?
Nothing has changed. I remember being taught not to do drugs or else I’d be condemned to a life on skid row. I was told the same if I got tattoos and piercings. I was told not to have sex until I was married. “If you do any of those things, you’ll be a bum.” Societal standards, man. I took my fair share of risks, including drugs, sex, and rock n roll. I got tattoos and obtained decent work. I didn’t get addicted to cocaine. I have always been a responsible drinker, and I gave birth to two of my kids with my clit pierced.
Weed is what I use to manage my physical and emotional pain. It is what I use to enhance my creativity. I am a fortunate creature not to become addicted to things. However, that cannot be said for everyone. The same cannot be said for people who fall into hard times, and there’s no easy way to get back on their feet. Some cannot help themselves and become slaves to their addictions. Before I cut off my sister, I watched her admonish those who didn’t save and invest their $600 unemployment checks last year. Once again, a Christian who thinks they are above those who don’t have the same privileges as her. Like saving money is that easy for those already struggling. We need to have compassion for the unhoused, those who sell sex for food, shelter, that next fix, or just because that is their profession of choice.
I have learned much from community advocates such as @thesidewalkproject, who don’t go around offering unrealistic and long-term solutions to LA’s unhoused. They show compassion, hygiene supplies, primary medical care, needle clean-ups, and stand up against the authorities who try to harm the unhoused. The New York Times reported on the nation’s first supervised drug-injection sites, a program where addicts can use in safe spaces have been established to prevent overdoses. Just because someone’s life doesn’t look like our own or offer pointless facebook rants doesn’t give us the to condemn, blame and brutally eliminate the unhoused, sex workers, and mentally unstable. It’s a lot easier to simply listen to someone’s story and then offer compassion instead of blaming them for being eyesores and economic drains.
Addiction in all its forms, whether power, wealth, or opioids and alcohol, is poisonous.
From Hell is more than just a movie based on a graphic novel. While it’s entertaining, that deeper message still gets me every time. For what are our favorite films without meaning? I learned from Ivotres Littles that all of our beloved horror films have some message we can all relate to at some point or another. I believe I relate to Mary Kelly’s character the most. In one scene, she is scarfing down a stew and vulnerable to Abberline. She tells him, “ One day, I will be a great big round woman with a skinny little man for a husband.” Abberline agrees with her and adds to her fantasy but not before she accuses him of making fun of her. Oh, how I can relate to feeling like my fantasies and goals are laughable to some who have always seen me as nothing more than an “unfortunate”! The thing is, I look at my life now, and I gaze into my future, and I may not see diamonds or a mansion, but I see peace, nature, and a future that doesn’t consist of societal norms. Women are capable of extraordinary feats that men fear. So, even if a hired serial killer gets away with his crimes at the moment, HER story will prevail and give birth to future generations of women, trans women included, to finally overthrow the patriarchy. I’m here for it.
To find and help a women’s reproductive health center near you, visit abortionfunds.org