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Review The Limehouse Golem (2016): Close but no cigar!

genre: mystery, thriller, horror

Victorian London is shook up by a serial killer named The Limehouse Golem shortly before the most famous serial killer, Jack The Ripper, would make his entrance. Who is this vicious killer?

For a while this film had me going. Everything seemed to click. Bill Nighy as the reluctant  Inspector John Kildare. Olivia Cooke as the enchanting Lizzie Cree. An intriguing murder mystery. And for the most part the wonderful atmospheric recreation of Victorian London.  Unfortunately as a thriller or horror The Limehouse Golem fails miserably. Apart from some very brief depictions of blood and gore the terror and dread is completely absent. The possibility of supernatural elements concerning the Jewish myth is not even touched upon. Very curious is the decision to only show the murders in flashbacks and only pay attention to it once the plot asks for it. How am I supposed to be terrified or put on edge if you are never going to show me why I should be?  It also doesn't help that the majority of the people in London are hardly bothered by the killings since we are never shown that people fear for there lives or are outraged by the murders. 

What is left is a mystery that fails to hook you in completely as it never truly misdirects you. Two red herrings once confronted are immediately dismissed and disregarded. Now this would have been fine if there were many of these misdirections. But there weren't which leaves very little to ponder on thus eliminating the suspense. I mean even with all the good will and my willingness to overlook the lack of good twists and turns it was painfully obvious what direction the film was going. The ending therefore was very disappointing. 

As a period piece however this film is compelling enough. It points out certain social issues without ever becoming political or moralistic. Although it is clear that the film does imply that things now have improved considerably. Next to that it was nice to see some music hall performances and how the crowds respond to those. Back then that kind of entertainment was much more appreciated than now. Especially since they played out actual events on stage.  

If it weren't for the great cast I probably would not have been able to get into this film. It's a real shame that director Juan Carlos Medina did not even attempt to venture into the mystical and supernatural. Since that was one of the things that could have given this mystery an edge, I also don't really understand why the gruesome murders are not depicted or treated as such. Thriller 101 demands you emphasize the cruelty so that your audience is hooked. 

I was intrigued but that was more because of my craving for genuine thriller / horror goodness. I feel let down since The Limehouse Golem really had the potential to provide it. It reminded me of the Jack the Ripper mini series with Michael Caine but without the thrills, suspense and the surprises. Close but no cigar!


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