Another problem with not really knowing the true identity of Jack the Ripper is that his money-grubbing estate can't price this sort of nonsense out of being excreted. Director John Eyres, who also helmed the torturous Octopus, delivers a rambling string of horror cliches called Ripper: Letter From Hell (2001, 113 minutes) without having the courtesy of even being clever about it. This territory has been well covered as Jack may be THE most chronicled boogeyman on the big screen short of ol' Scratch himself with films boasting wild stabs at every plot twist imaginable -- a personal fave featuring a time traveling Malcolm McDowell. This latest Ripper ode is meant to coat-tail From Hell, but winds up resembling something unpleasant stuck to Johnny Depp's boots.
The movie: Not only is there a homicidal maniac Ginsu-ing perfectly good coeds in the name of Jack the Ripper, it's also been RAINING for no less than 10 YEARS and not one person has ever HEARD of an umbrella. It's pouring as a blonde-headed Molly (A.J. Cook) screeches through the woods with thunder claps and flashes of lightening periodically pointing out all the really creepy stuff she might want to consider screaming bloody murder about. It's even pouring when she dives into a lake and swims to the apparent safety of a sailboat where she encounters more things to freak out over before slipping into a terror-induced catatonic state. Five years later, it's still pouring and most CineSchlockers will be snoring as EVERYTHING in this flick is painfully boring. There's a typical gaggle of whisper-talking college students taking a course on serial killing. Check your community college catalogs for that one. Molly's adopted a post-near-death-experience rebel persona complete with aborted dreads and a nasty attitude that encourages most everyone to hate her guts, except for horndogs angling toward an invite to her apocalyptic artist's loft for a diddle. Hopefuls include a stammering dork (Courtenay J. Stevens) and a sensitive, stubbled stud (Ryan Northcott). Also among her fellow doomed classmates are scrumptious babes Kelly Brook and Claire Keim with Ms. Brook being the sex-crazed vixen and Ms. Keim masking her cattiness with a dreamy French accent. The potential hit list goes on, but unfortunately they don't croak near soon enough. Like bazillions of cookie-cutter slashers before it, victims wander from the herd when they shouldn't. And when they wander, they wander F-O-R-E-V-E-R, protracting alleged tension as long as possible before the inevitable happens, which then evokes RELIEF rather than terror. This murder-by-numbers whodunit doesn't play fair plot wise, either, with an almost exclusive diet of red herring. But none of that really matters because even if the ending made sense it'd STILL be inane. CineSchlockers who find Molly, Mary-Ann (Daniella Evangelista) and Andrea (Emmanuelle Vaugier) easy on the peepers may also ogle the trio in Wishmaster 3: Beyond the Gates of Hell.
Notables: Two breasts. 15 corpses. Phony throat slash. Killer cam. Apartment trashing. Oversized hypodermic needle to the back. Bitch slapping. Nekkid crucifixion. Gratuitous Ripper slideshow.
Quotables: In the flick's most howl-worthy scene, Molly looks longingly into her professor's eyes, while locked in a forbidden embrace and coos, "Let me in."
Time codes: Halloween costume dance leads to animalistic diddling in the john (23:55). Expressive "running and painting" montage (1:16:25). First of two gruesome kill scenes involving logs or logging equipment (1:33:55).
Audio/Video: Original widescreen (1.85:1) print avoids digital crags and shimmers typical of films with this many dark (and rainy) scenes. Those copious thunder claps are mighty convincing in Dolby Digital 5.1.
Extras: Low-key commentary by director John Eyres in which he strays from merely describing what's on the screen to highlight interesting production difficulties, including some amusing shortcuts such as turning a nighttime foot pursuit on the beach into a daylight car chase. He also points out some minor digital effects like the near-seamless blending of a miniature and location shot. It'll remind some CineSchlockers of the lauded upward pan to the opera house rafters in Citizen Kane. Then a ground breaking technical achievement, now computer jockeys just hit Alt-F12. About 10 minutes of smiley cast and crew interviews. Trailers for this disaster, plus the eagerly anticipated Bully and The Convent. Static menus without audio. No printed insert or liner notes.
Final thought: This Jack ain't nimble or quick and can't hold a candlestick to a certain other Ripper flick. Rent It.
G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.