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The Limehouse Golem - Lionsgate Print E-mail
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Written by Jay Creepy   
Wednesday, 01 November 2017
Severed Cinema Review of The Limehouse Golem from Lionsgate Home Entertainment


AKA: Golem z Limehouse, Los misteriosos asesinatos de Limehouse, os Crimes de Limehouse

Directed by: Juan Carlos Medina
Written by: Jane Goldman, Peter Ackroyd (novel)
Produced by: Joanne Laurie, Caroline Levy, Elizabeth Karlson, Stephen Woolley
Cinematography by: Simon Dennis
Special Effects by: Ian Rowley, Steve Breheney.
Editing by: Justin Krish
Music by: Johan Soderqvist
Cast: Bill Nighy, Daniel Mays, Olivia Cooke, Douglas Booth, Sam Reid, Amelia Crouch, Henry Goodman, Damien Thomas.
Year: 2016
Country: UK
Language: English
Color: Color
Runtime: 1h 48 min

Distributor: Lionsgate Home Entertainment

For many years, the UK has produced a mass of horror product in cinema form and in TV form. It makes me patriotic and proud that the country has bounced back from the bleak wasteland that was the late ‘80s and early ‘90s when hardly anything popped out. Two genres we can always do well are ghosts and Victorian serial killer settings.

There's that school of acting, from a certain era, proud as punch and very dignified. Bill (Underworld, Shaun of the Dead) Nighy is one such chap. So to have him in a rare lead role is an interesting experience.

Thus the tale, The Limehouse Golem (based on a book by Peter Akroyd), opens with Lizzie Cree, who discovers her husband dead, poisoned. The police first believe he committed suicide, however, literally moments later -- due to the maid – attention turns to Elizabeth as the one who may have done such a deed.

Told in the pre-credits sequence as illustration to a play which is unfolding before a slack-jawed tensed-up audience -- hence a performance of melodrama -- this is the story of Elizabeth Cree, the darling of the music halls. “The city was held by the fearsome, Limehouse Golem. Who was he? Who would be his next victim?” gasps the actor in a wig and streaked make-up. “His was the name on every Londoner's lips!

Detective Inspector Kildare, played by a glum-faced Bill Nighy, has the glorious task of hunting down the serial killer who, as we hear upon introduction to his character, has just left five people dead in a house. He isn't too pleased at first to have this sprung upon him. The house is an absolute bloodbath. Upstairs and downstairs. There are reporters and rubber-necking neighbours everywhere reading on crimson pools. Nothing prepares him for what awaits him though. The corpses are quite a mess.

He who observes, spills no less blood than he who inflicts the blow.” Kildare translates the Latin scrawled upon a far wall. He is teamed with Constable Flood, played in gusto by Daniel (Rogue One, Byzantium) Mays, who hears rumours of his new colleagues past, via office gossip. Flood knows the Limehouse area well enough to be useful. Kildare explains that there's no pattern in the murders. Men, women, young, very old, from all walks of life. Flood shrugs this off as just a need to kill. “I'll wager there's a tale being told.” Kildare disputes. He is also aware that the reason he is on the case is because he's an expendable scapegoat to be hung by the press and the public as the slaughters will continue unchallenged due to absolutely no clues.

However, a brief thought on the Latin quote leads him to the library and the surprise discovery of a book which has pages upon pages of shocking sketches and handwritten notes -- to kill a whore, and ...took my knife and cut her across the throat... a sort of hastily splashed diary. Upon quizzing the librarian who last loaned the book, the reply is simply, nobody. It is a reading room, not a lending one. Further investigation lists four men on one of the dates, the last one, in the makeshift diary. Aside from the one and only, Karl Marx, plus a big name in the theatre and music halls, Daniel Leno, another of the men that day was the late, John Cree.

Kildare heads to the trail of Lizzie Cree. As he states to Flood, if John Cree was the Golem, then London's troubles are indeed over. Back in his office, he reads the diary and pictures the scene, placing the men in the acts he reads. Afterwards, he speaks with Elizabeth, wishing to piece together the ever scattering jigsaw pieces.

We follow the journey of Lizzie, right from childhood as a little girl abused by her unbalanced mother (plus men on the streets), to her way into theatre after her mother's death. All told as her trial continues. Kildare seems to be getting deeper and deeper the more he talks with Elizabeth in her cell. One of the men must be the Limehouse Golem, but he is getting nowhere. If, of course, John Cree was the Golem, she may be spared the noose.

Kildare and Flood prowl around interviewing the suspects and we see the black alleys and gutters of London from that era. The people, the filth and the murders. However, Kildare isn't ready for the truth.

The English melodrama has run since the days before cinema, as bounders and scoundrels pounded the wooden stage floors terrorising audiences. Cinema, of course, brought along the greatest of all melodramatic actors, Tod Slaughter, who reigned for over a decade in cheap and violent productions in the entertaining B&W days. The Limehouse Golem truly feels like a quaint English melodrama, with a larger budget. The recreation of Victorian sets, houses, etcetera, almost bring the smells of the streets to you. A close comparison could be made to The Frankenstein Chronicles TV series a couple of years ago which worked hard to build an incredible and believable landscape to backdrop what was a Grand Guignol tale of gore. The Limehouse Golem widens the gaps between its gory murders as to build up the story and the characters. When the effects arrive, they are sometimes brief yet eyebrow raising. A severed head, a hanging corpse with entrails exposed -- fancy a skull pounded in? The atmosphere generated makes each moment seem more real.

London in 1880 has never looked so authentic. From the gloomy docks to the music halls, this movie has spared no pennies in doing this. Another thing worth mentioning is the sheer magnitude of the orchestral music which radiates throughout. Cheers, Johan Soderqvist. It first hits you as Kildare wanders the butcher’s shop of the first murder scene. As he sees corpses laid on the bed, the music is so teeth grinding in its pure menace.

Acting honours go to everybody, from the main cast to the crusty cameo roles wandering the passages and docks whether they be abusing children, collectors of pornography or just drinking excessively. Lizzie Cree's life contains most of these creatures along the way to her meeting her husband, John.

If you are like me, a sucker for snapshots of London in the 1800s, circa Madness and their Liberty of Norton Folgate album (kind of), then The Limehouse Golem is a true classic. I believe it has to be seen on a large screen to get the impact of such matters. As stated prior, the truth is a lovely little twist you might not see coming which adds to the beauty of the artwork.




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