I am not sure that it is entirely healthy or right that this is the case, but as a society, we have an odd fascination with serial killers. Maybe it is a morbid curiosity but a good murder is headline news, and TV shows or movies about murder are almost always instant successes. Many killers are immortalised in works of fiction, like Jack the Ripper, The Zodiac Killer, John Wayne Gacy and Ted Bundy. We have even dreamt up serial killers of our own, like Leatherface, Hannable Lector and Dexter Morgan. Now we have a new killer in a film adapted from historical fiction novel Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem, I give you a film starring Bill Nye: The Limehouse Golem.
Set in 19th Century London, Inspector John Kildare is investigating a series of grizzly murders by a serial killer called the Limehouse Golem. However, on the other side of London, Elizabeth Cree is put on trial for the murder of her husband, John, who coincidently is a suspect in the Golem case. How do these two crimes relate to each other and just who exactly is the Limehouse Golem?
I thoroughly enjoyed Limehouse Golem. It is a great little gruesome tale of murder in Victorian England the most horrifying period, aesthetically anyway, in British history. A mix of historical figures, fantasy and a gory mystery, interweaving it all to create a wonderfully theatrical piece of fiction. The film is aware of this, as well as the aesthetics of penny dreadful’s, Hammer Horror and the music hall, and combines all these elements to create a visually arresting and atmospheric setting, full of tight alleys, mist, shadow, strange coloured lights and murder most foul.
The film is drenched in theatricality. From the look, to the performance, to the setting, to the characters, to even the theme. There are multiple references to a satirical essay on murder, arts entitled On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts by Thomas De Quincy, who is a character in the film. The filmmakers may be hammering the nature of the relationship between murder and the public a little heavily, but it is no less chilling when the murderer is fully revealed.
Populating the streets and dodging the corpses are a cast of stalwart British actors having a blast. Bill Nighy is always value for money, and here he is slightly toned down as our audience surrogate and lead investigator Kildare. Olivia Cooke, from Ouija and the upcoming Ready Player One, as Elizabeth Cree, looks like she is having incredible fun bouncing up and down the character spectrum, as is Douglas Booth, of Noah and the Riot Club as famed king of the music hall Dan Leno.
There are problems, of course, most of them are with the plot. Some plot points are mentioned in throw away lines and don’t amount to much, but perhaps the most damning of all is that I guessed the twist within the first 10 minutes, though that may be because I watch far too many mystery films. It ruins any good mystery when instead of playing the deduction game figuring out the pieces of the puzzle, you are playing a waiting game, waiting for the inspector to twig and put two and two together. But you know that he will only figure it out at the end and thus there you are screaming at the screen silently for an hour and forty minutes just waiting for the penny to drop.
Despite these problems, The Limehouse Golem is a memorable little twisty tale. It is a film with a great look and a cast that looks as though they are having a whale of a time putting on gruesome tales with some slightly dodgy cockney accents. It is one that I wholeheartedly recommend for anyone with a more macabre sensibility
You can watch The Limehouse Golem in Cinema’s now
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