From Hell – Opening Sequence Analysis
Albert Hughes blows us away with the amazing new spectacle that is From Hell. This Crime / Horror
film will be released in cinemas on 8th February 2002 and features a movie based on the legend that
is Jack the Ripper. The opening sequence of the movie is symbolic to the genre that the movie
portrays for various reasons.
The movie’s macro elements are important to the overall feeling of the movie. One of the films
establishing shots is of one showing a bustling city deep in the industrial revolution, the smoke from
many factories shows viewers immediately that they have been transported back through time. The
viewer can guess straight away that London will feature in the movie due to its connections with
Jack the Ripper, however a handy caption underneath tells us straight away that this is the location
and setting throughout the movie.
The genre is also easy to identify throughout this opening. The movie begins with a white
text quote painted onto a black background, this is key as straight away this hints at darkness and
grimness throughout the movie, it could also hint at loneliness which can be reflected at the families
loneliness when one of their loved ones has been killed.
The opening shots show a dark street corner, the shots are very dark indeed and this use of
dark colours show off the potential darkness and sinister notions that the movie may contain.
Straight away the movie shows off a gentleman supposedly on his own, we see these intricate items
surrounding him including a shot of him smoking something. This has its own analysis to it, the item
he is smoking could be making the character warped or slightly delusional hinting that a, or this,
character could be like it throughout the movie hinting at the Jack the Ripper storyline. Once we see
the eyes of the man we have made a connection to him, we know he will likely appear again
sometime during the movie. We can also guess straight away that this character is important to the
story as why did we need to meet him straight away. The viewer can only guess that this character is
the criminal due to the symbolism and iconography of the scene, him smoking can show he is
delusional just like he will be when he is killing people; this is only academic at this point as we do
not know more about the character.
The women we see at the start are also key, we instantly believe the girls we see are
prostitutes through their appearance and what they are saying. This is key as we can instantly see
this characterisation through the opening two minutes of the movie, their dirty appearance shows
off they are up to no good and taking part in illegal activities. The setting also proves this, they are
not in the heart of the city but just on the outskirts buy a rundown pub, this shows that these people
are not socially acceptable and are doing illegal activities.
The movie’s micro elements are also important to the opening. The mise-en-scene shows off straight
away the darkness that the movie may contain, the quiet street corner is also important as it shows
off the creepiness and the eeriness the movie may have later on.
The dark colours and lighting of the scene create this dark atmosphere which will be very
symbolic of a crime or a horror movie. It gets viewers immediately understanding that there will be
some form of darkness throughout the opening sequence.
The music of the opening is also important, the non-diagetic sound is very slow at the start
but builds up throughout the opening, this helps build up tension as well as showing that this movie
will build up over time until we reach the end when all will be solved.
The costume and props are very important throughout this opening. The period clothing
worn throughout these opening shows that the movie is set back in the past, the props are also
important as it shows off the old carriages with the cobbled streets. This shows off that the movie is
based in the past and helps identify the time period that we are in. The clothing and the props here
suggest the industrial revolution so these help identify this for the viewer. The clothing and props
also help create a sense of realism without the breaking the verisimilitude of the scene. It would look
very weird if the Jack the Ripper story was based around gangsters so the period clothing helps
generate realism for the viewers watching the movie. One of the opening shots off an old candle as
well, again showing the time period that the movie is based in.
The editing is also key to the opening. The red text on a black background throughout the
opening credits has connotations with death and violence, blood and death springs to mind so again
fits in with the Crime and Horror genres.
The films camera angles are also important to this opening. The close up shot shown when Mary is
attacked by her boss shows off her facial expressions and her thoughts and feelings during this time,
this gives the viewer an opportunity to react with the characters and feel part of what they are doing
at this time.
The use of fairly low camera angles at this time shows off the superiority that these
characters have during this time frame. This could however change when the attacks start taking
place. It is interesting to see how power can shift throughout the movie.
Overall, the new Albert Hughes film is an exciting mix of Crime and Horror that is really projected
into show during the opening exchanges. It is definitely a movie hot on everyone’s lips at the
moment and is definitely one you should go and see.