RIPPER: LETTER FROM HELL
Surprisingly, considering its director (see next paragraph), Ripper: Letter from Hell has a good script. Screenwriter Pat Bermel has gone out and studied forensic profiling and the scenes in the criminology class exploring the mind and methods of the serial killer prove to be the most captivating in the film. Bruce Payne has a striking scene where he announces to his class: What if I had decided to kill one of you today? What if I had medicated myself all these years, seen analysts to suppress the desire and finally two weeks ago I stopped taking medication and decided to step into the abyss? and then abruptly turns around and slits a students throat. The scene where A.J. Cook explains her Ripper theory to the class is equally fascinating. The film goes out on an excellent twist coda that reveals the real killers identity.
On the other hand, Ripper: Letter from Hell also befalls director John Eyres. John Eyres has been responsible for films like Project Shadowchaser (1992) and sequels, Monolith (1994), Judge and Jury (1996) and Octopus (2000). Most of John Eyress films are filled with ridiculous and over-the-top action. Eyres is a director who gives the impression that he regards scripts as an only occasionally necessary evil that is way down the rung of priorities when it comes to making his films. Ripper: Letter from Hell is easily the best of John Eyress films by sole dint of the fact that he has a halfway decent script on board this time.
The corollary to this is that John Eyress usual OTT direction tends to drag down what in someone elses hands might have amounted to a decent B-budget film. The first set-piece killing involves a girl being stabbed and then dropped off a balcony on the end of a pulley, from where her blood drips down onto a girl in a white dress dancing at the rave below, before the murder victims body is then smashed through a window. While the scene has a certain effective silliness in a slasher movie kind of way and even if the set-up has been borrowed from Suspiria (1977) what one defies John Eyres to do is cite evidence from any of the Jack the Ripper murders (which the killer here is meant to be imitating) where one of the Whitechapel prostitutes was killed in such a way. Ditto the subsequent killing of Daniele Evangelista where her car is rammed by another vehicle and left teetering on the side the edge of a cliff, before being rammed again and Evangelista propelled through the windscreen and left hanging from the side of the cliff by her fingertips. It is extremely silly although Eyres does create one good suspenseful scene with two victims being caught in a sawmill buzzsaw, where one is sliced up and the other is left trying to escape from under the jammed blade where all that is stopping her from being chewed up is the other victims severed foot and shoe caught in the blade.
In the end, Ripper: Letter from Hell and its Jack the Ripper angle amounts to nothing more than another variation on the modern 90s/00s teen slasher films where the killer uses an improbable novelty motif scary movies in Scream (1996), urban legends in Urban Legend (1998), Valentines Day in Valentine (2001) and so on.
Ripper: Letter from Within (2004) was a sequel, following the same lead character, played by a different actress. The script was from the same writers but neither John Eyres nor any of the writers return. This version was set in a therapeutic dream reality.