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[Ripper:Letter From Hell]
Plot:A massacre survivor (A.J. Cook) studies serial killers under a famous expert (Bruce Payne), but her classmates soon start dying at the hands of a Jack the Ripper copycat.
Courtenay J. Stevens.
My thoughts:Going into this movie, I had my doubts, as I do with most direct to video slashers, or direct to video films for that matter. Another reason I was doubtful about it, was because it was playing on the Jack the Ripper mythos, as many films have done in the past, with disasterous results. However, the films running time of 1 hr and 55 minutes, did give me a glimmer of hope that maybe there was some actual effort put into it.
My review:The film starts out very well, with a young girl (Molly Keller) running for her life on an island during a big storm. It's obvious from what happens in the first few minutes, that someone has murdered all her friends, and is now after her, or so it seems. After swimming to the boat, and dispatching of a person dressed in black who tried to climb aboard the boat, Molly escapes, and is found later on disturbed, in shock, and obviously shaken by the harbor patrol. Fast forward, and now shes in college, taking a course which involves the studying of serial killers. This course is taught by Marshall Kane, a former FBI agent and serial killer expert. Molly is told to join up with a group of kids from her class for a class project on profiling serial killers. However, once this happens, the murders start to happen once again, and Molly is once more at the center of the chaos and blood. This was a good DTV slasher film IMO. With some good (and brutal) kills. No one is shown any mercy in this flick, and the killers identity can be placed with any number of people involved in the movie. From the students, to the teacher, the odd loner kid who was Mollys friend back in high school, to even the mysterious detective who found Molly on the boat and now shows up again to investigate this new batch of murders, and warn Molly of the danger shes in. As I said before, the kills are brutal, two of which involve a girl getting sliced up, then gets her foot caught in a chainlift, upon which the killer activates the mechanism to bring the chain up, only so they can knife her even more times, and later on a girl is thrown through the windshield of her car, and dangles from a cliff screaming for help. Then there are also the idiots who put their own lives in jepoardy doing dumb things such as going to work at the morgue in the wee hours of the night while a killers on the loose (ever hear of calling in sick?), and one idiot girl who runs deep into the woods and enters a saw mill or log cutting plant to escape the killer (I'm sure you'll be much safer around all those sharp buzzsaws), only to run into the weird loner kid, and rather than thanking her lucky stars that she doesn't have to worry about being alone anymore, she knees him in the crown jewels. The film also makes sure not to dispatch of it's main suspects too early in the film, thus making it very difficult to peg who the killer exactly is. All the while it explores a deep and puzzling subplot involving the main character Molly who may not be all she seems to be, and the professor who while portraying an intelligent, calm persona on the outside, may quite possibly be the murderous crackpot knocking off his students. The climax is wonderfully done, with a rainstorm/thunder&lightning setting along the backdrop of a cabin deep in the woods. Things get a bit confusing in the climax, and you kind of get the sense that the writers went a bit overboard with the twists and turns. After 3 more kids are knocked off, 2 of which are killed by the stupidity and panic of Claire Keims character, mistrust and panic runs rampant between the last 3 people left alive, all leading up to a shocking climax which even I could admit I didn't see coming at all. The ending suggests a sequel while making you wonder if the ending really happened at all, or was just imagined by the one and only survivor.
Pros:Great atmosphere, dark, hopeless, and depressing.
You really get the feeling that this killer means business, and that most of the kids won't live through the film. I also liked the fact that they tried to profile the killer who was murdering their friends, in an attempt to catch or ID the person and end the bloodshed, rather than sitting around listening to rock music waiting to be picked off like most characters in recent horror films do. The kills were great, top notch for a DTV horror. The film also surpassed my expectations in the entertainment value department. Ending was indeed a shocker, and I liked the way the climax was set up. The twists,turns, and endless list of legit suspects keeps you wondering up until the end who exactly is the killer.
Cons:The detective played by Jurgen Prochnow, while he did very well as a mysterious wildcard in the movie, detectives usually carry a small firearm, not a knife, nor do they creep around in black cloaks, stalking the people they are alledgedly trying to protect. This guy came off more as a nut rather than a detective. The characters, very shallow people you really could careless about. With the exception of Molly who was an interesting character, Kane, and Mary Anne who was a pretty nice girl who didn't deserve the fate she got, the rest are just paperthin cliches. The pointless sex scene between the professor and Molly, didn't play into the finally at all except to cause the usual boy/girl jealousy angle to show.
Overall:This was a DTV gem, a rare find that you won't wanna run back to Hollywood, Blockbuster, or wherever you rent from, and demand an exchange. There is rumored to be a sequel in production, however, A.J. Cook has already been confirmed not to be returning to play Molly Keller.
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