Amongst the endless direct-to-DVD movies that were released after the slasher resurgence begun by Scream in 1996 (that fricking movie is almost 20 years old!), there was 2001’s Ripper: Letter from Hell. I have to say, despite having a worrisome running length of nearly 2 hours, this one starts off very promisingly. There’s a forest, rain, mud, bodies, boobs, blood, and a scene on a boat that feels like a pretty good FINAL scene of a slasher. I just wish I had seen that slasher instead.
Leap ahead 5 years and the typical Scream, Urban Legend, and I Know What You Did Last Summer plot devices start to hit you over the head. There’s a class of college students, there’s a weirdo teacher giving a lesson on Jack the Ripper and serial killers, there’s the usual suspects of kids, including the mopey “goth” type chick, who is the lead in this film and was previously witness to very similar slaughters (aka: the prologue scene). There’s also the creepy stalking angel guy from The Seventh Sign playing a creepy stalking detective guy.
Ripper definitely has its share of delicious kills, including an excessively long one at a party/rave at a warehouse. This lengthy scene features a great jump scare and traces of Dario Argento influence, as well as a groovy blood bath featuring a female club kid all in white.
Equally dazzling is a scene later on in a sawmill. And Emmanuelle Vaugier, one of my favorite scream queens, even gets a syringe related kill, like some sort of foreshadowing to her fate in Saw II!
Unfortunately, the film goes on and on with endless dialogue and chaotic shifts in locations, eventually leading to a completely convoluted “twist” ending that includes the lead girl seeming to follow her own ghost (?) and an indecipherable epilogue that leaves you wondering who was actually the killer—and why they even bothered to drag Jack the Ripper’s good name into the plot.
On the bright side, the first film seems like a classic compared to 2004’s Ripper 2: Letter from Within, or as I like to call it, An Experimental Drug Overdose on Elm Street.
The good news? The film is only an hour and a half.
The lead girl from the first film is back—played by a different actress. So it’s already ruined. But the original lead actress had already moved on up to bigger and better cinema like Wishmaster 3 and Final Destination 2. Different-same-girl is now locked up and insane, and sent to a castle turned clinic to be experimented on by this doctor who thinks he’s the next Phantasm Tall Man. Different-same-girl hangs with all the kooky kids at the clinic, including an adorable guy who is the “sexual deviant” among the group.
Apparently, the doctor is trying to unleash the evil from within patients by drugging them and getting into their minds. So the ENTIRE movie is a mind trip. At one point, different-same-girl says she’s not sure what’s real and what’s not, and I totally know how she feels.
The clinic walls are covered in “antique” weapons. The doctor takes the gang out to explore the city and brings them to some sort of museum of torture devices. The sexual deviant spends about a third of the movie in a sex club and we are treated to half an hour of softcore porn. Lesbians, boobs, mistresses, gimps, school girls, and our sexual deviant almost getting a little lovin’ from a man (turns out, he’s not as deviant as he leads us to believe). Fun fun fun.
And finally, we have “The Ripper.” He’s one ominous dude in a grim reaper robe and hood, but this time around, he took lessons from none other than Samara and constantly does jerky Ring walk. There’s even a well in this film!
There are plenty of lame deaths, there are instant scene changes as characters are beamed from setting to setting because they are all on the doctor’s trippy drug. And finally, to drive home that we’ve just been dicked over for an hour and a half, different-same-girl stares right at the camera and says to us, “None of it was real.” Blackout. The end.
Oh. BTW. Spoilers behind.