As a season of Oscar hopefuls gets into full swing, we're sure to be bombarded by movies claiming to be of great substance. Most likely, what we'll get is a great deal of style and self-importance.

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Jack the Ripper's grisly London crimes caused such a circus of news, mythmaking, and conspiracy theories that he remains one of the most famous serial killers. Numerous novels and films have told his story, but he has remained enigmatic and troubling. Adapted from a grim graphic novel, From Hell (named for the return address used by the killer) is a spectacular, stylish film from the Hughes Brothers (Menace II Society). Brooding, opium-addicted detective Frederick George Abberline (Johnny Depp) tries to track down the killer, whose exploits he has foreseen in his drug-induced dreams. The targets are prostitutes in London's East End, and viewers are brought into this haunted, hunted circle. When Abberline convinces one of these desperate, impoverished women, Mary (Heather Graham), to help him, "only in Hollywood" romance begins.

Sometimes studying the methods of evil can help well-intentioned viewers understand their enemy. Or it can act as a cautionary tale about steps that lead to devastating wickedness. From Hell, according to most religious media critics, falls far short of these possible merits.

"From Hell is a suitable description of this film," says Preview's John Adair. He warns viewers away due to "graphic descriptions of what the killer has done." He also complains of too much onscreen skin in the scenes involving the prostitutes.

But Carole McDonnell at Christian Spotlight on the Movies sees an important theme threading through the plot: "The film speaks against prejudice. Those who happen to be rich because ...

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