Ripper (2016), directed by James Campbell.
Inspired by the 1989 graphic novel Gotham by Gaslight, created by DC Comics.
Written by James Campbell.
Starring Jacob Anderton, Mike Carr and Sally Collett.
London 1888; the Jack the Ripper murders are gripping the nation and the people of Whitechapel are growing increasingly scared. Chief Inspector Abberline is struggling to figure out who the killer is, and with the added pressure from above to catch the murderer his demons begin to get the better of him. But there is someone out there who wants to help…watching…in the shadows…waiting to strike.
When I was asked to view Ripper to say I went all giddy is probably a massive understatement. Mixing Jack the Ripper and Batman is a formula I’ve been waiting for since reading the steampunk/superhero mash-up Gotham by Gaslight back in 1989.
That book basically birthed the Elseworlds universe, and although I was fully aware you’d never see this crossover on the big screen, I did wonder why it had never been fully realized as a fan film before? With all that in my mind I was slightly apprehensive still, but I can now safely say after viewing there was nothing to be scared about.
After viewing I slumped back in my chair with a wry smile on my face and felt an overwhelming sense of pride. This was the film I envisioned. It captured all the elements I wanted from a Jack the Ripper story and totally did The Dark Knight justice, but that wasn’t all. It added another ingredient that I wasn’t expecting; a style of filmmaking that I’m enthralled by… Giallo. I’m not totally sure if this was intentional, but I’m guessing it was as it was far too sophisticated not to be? The psychedelic colour pallet, the overlapping in editing and the erratic, prog/synth score that is just phenomenal. So now were dealing with three of my favorite subjects; Jack the Ripper, Batman and the Italian horror filmmaking genre.
I’ve a bit of a buff when it come to the Jack the Ripper case and have been fascinated by it, and researched it immensely for years. I have been a fan of Batman since I was a young child, but stopped reading the comics a few years back over personal difficulties I have with where DC Comics are steering the character. I have the same gripe with the films and agree with the mighty Alan Partridge when he claimed that they have never gotten Batman right on the silver screen yet. There have been glimpses with Tim Burton’s version, and Nolan’s Batman Begins was the closest we’ve got yet, but Batman on film is becoming saturated and stale now. The best hope we have for the character is through fan films as they know all about the character and history, not the character that’s parading around in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Giallo style filmmaking has always intrigued me. I’m ashamed to say I’ve spent endless hours of my life watching everything the style has churned out. I can’t tell you why I love it so much, it just touches a nerve. It’s bizarre, but beautiful. It’s erratic, but erotic with visuals that could only be associated with this style and its directors. The film scores are always amazing too and it’s extremely difficult to get right [in modern times] with overemphasis or trying too hard. Ripper captures all these elements wonderfully and executes them to a supreme level.
What writer/director James Campbell has done deserves a lot of credit and attention, as Ripper is not only a very cool mash-up of pop culture characters spun in a weave of exotic Giallo style visuals, but it doffs it’s cap historically to the real case and doesn’t lose sight of the brutality of the murders and the timeframe they were committed.
The acting on show here, considering its a fan-film, is extraordinary. Everyone is on the money and puts a lot of big budget thespians to shame. The delight of having a traditionally styled Batman and square-jawed comic book lookalike Bruce Wayne – portrayed by Donald Standen – is also wonderful. To top everything off, the cherry on the cake is the casting of the legend that is Bruce Payne (The Keep, Highlander: Endgame). Imagine my delight when Payne appeared playing the dual role of, er, *cough*, *cough*, I won’t spoil it, but its genius.
If Ripper is anything to go by then James Campbell is someone I’m going to keep close tabs on as he’s certainly a talent. To be able to merge and have a level of control over such famous characters, and fuse them into a 23 minute film whilst delivering something that is stylistically stunning is no easy feat. I applaud you sir, and await your next masterpiece.