Ripper: Letter from Hell (2000)

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Released 13-Nov-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Main Menu Audio
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Synopsis
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 109:20 (Case: 120)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (78:30) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By John Eyres
Studio
Distributor

Magna Home Entertainment
Starring A.J. Cook
Bruce Payne
Jurgen Prochnow
Ryan Northcott
Derek Hamilton
Case Click
RPI $29.95 Music Peter Allen


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes, by the main character no less.
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    When I sat down to review this disc, I was looking forward to it for two reasons;
  1. It had a good reputation on the web as a "classic style" slasher, and
  2. It was a Canadian horror telemovie, and after the very good Ginger Snaps which I reviewed earlier this year, I had great expectations for Ripper: Letter From Hell.

    Maybe my mistake was actually having any expectations for this movie, but it certainly taught me two important lessons, and it taught me the hard way at that. Firstly, do not believe everything you read on the web, and secondly, just because one Canadian telemovie is good doesn't mean any others will be.

    To put it simply, Ripper: Letter From Hell is pathetic. It is one of the most obvious, completely clichéd slasher films ever produced. Every scare is telegraphed up to twenty seconds ahead by the cessation of music for "tension building", and when the scare eventuates it is always matched by a quick horn blast from the score. The characters are your typical slasher fare, with each being their own stereotype in one person. Further they are illogical, never really becoming a "character" as such, more doing whatever the script-writer deems necessary at the time for the next, sign-posted scare. This flitting from one type of person to another really removes all empathy that could have been felt for the characters, although it is not helped by the least charismatic group of actors assembled in a long time. The acting is, for the most part, atrocious, featuring some of the worst over-acting ever put on film. The largest offender is the truly horrendous performance of Jürgen Prochnow as the policeman Detective Kelso, although Derek Hamilton as Eddie the jock tries very hard to be as bad. The final nail in the coffin, and truly the worst offence for a slasher film, is that Ripper is boring! Instead of being scary, there are so many scenes of expositional dialogue that you end up wishing that the killer had decided to use a bomb and take out everyone in one go, right there and then. Even worse, this happens on many occasions. When you are watching a slasher flick and are thinking to yourself "oh just shut up and get on with it", then you know it is not doing its job very well at all.

    So, what is there good to say about Ripper: Letter From Hell? Well, in all fairness, had the actors been a little more charismatic, and had the over-actors been fired and replaced with people more subtle, this movie may have had a chance. In the hands of the inept cast there was never any real hope. The identity of the killer is also very well hidden, and (although not at all logical) is quite a surprise when it is eventually revealed. They certainly had me going through the surviving members of the cast, and still not picking it. The finale was also quite good, the last ten minutes of the film easily being the best. Oh, and the lighting is absolutely gorgeous. None of which, sadly, adds up to a film that is worthwhile watching. I must admit however, from about two thirds of the way through, I changed my attitude and took to abusing the pathetically stupid characters and their choices ("NO!!! Don't run AWAY from him - he wants to help you!!"), and found myself enjoying it considerably more. So maybe the secret here is to know that the movie is pathetic from the start and to not treat it seriously. Then maybe some enjoyment is to be had.

    As for what this movie is about, the story revolves around Molly Keller (A.J. Cook - one of the less over-acting prone cast), who was the only survivor of an island holiday when she was 16. Now, five years later, and partly due to her ordeal, she is studying forensic science under acclaimed professor Martin Kane (Bruce Payne relishing not being the worst actor in a film for once), when the killer who stalked her on the island returns. As her classmates, and reluctantly, Molly herself, start to investigate the murders, it becomes apparent that the killer is copying the infamous London murderer "Jack the Ripper". The further we get to solving the mystery, and the fewer classmates remaining, the more desperate and fractious the class becomes. Molly must face the fact that maybe the killer is stalking her for some otherworldly reason.

    From the premise, this story has a chance, but as previously stated, in the hands of the inept cast, there was nothing that could be done to save Ripper: Letter From Hell from becoming the new holder of the Halloween: H20 award for the worst teen slasher film of all time.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer presented for Ripper: Letter From Hell is almost flawless, and the only complaints are really more a case of looking hard to find them, than being obvious.

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, the transfer is 16x9 enhanced.

    The only areas in which this transfer falls down are sharpness and shadow detail. This is not a bleedingly sharp transfer, although it is certainly uniform in sharpness throughout, and what is presented is more than adequate. It is just that I have seen sharper transfers. On its own, however, there are no problems with the sharpness of this transfer. Shadow detail faces a similar predicament, being very good, and suiting the film quite well, but it is not as good as it might have been. There is no low level noise present.

    Colours are very good, providing deep blacks for night time sequences and costumes, and the more vibrant highlights where necessary. The lighting work on this film is of a particularly high quality, with most indoor scenes coming over with rich, warm tones, while outdoor scenes have a more harshly contrasting nature.

    I noted no artefacts on this DVD whatsoever - no compression artefacts, no aliasing, and no film artefacts. A very impressive effort from Magna Pacific.

    There are no subtitles present on this disc.

    This is an RSDL formatted disc with the layer change occurring at 78:30 on a fade to black (what appears to be an "ad-break" fade). While visually it is well placed, it is about half a second too late, as the audio has already started to return, and is interrupted by the change.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    This disc is presented with an audio transfer to match its video, being almost flawless with only a few niggling complaints.

    There is only one audio track present on this disc being the original English dialogue track presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 at the normal bitrate of 384 Kbps.

    Dialogue is always clear and easy to understand (excluding certain lines from the French-accented Claire Keim), although there were a few occasions when a strange distortion was introduced into the entire soundtrack. The most obvious occurrence of this is during the sequence 56:09-56:19, although it does occur for shorter periods at other times. The distortions were never enough to make the vocals difficult to understand, and I could not work out if it had been introduced purposefully.

    Audio sync was never a real problem, although there is a short period around 61:54 when it does slip ever-so-slightly out.

    The music consists of both score music, credited to Peter Allen, and contemporary songs, mostly of the "metal" variety. By now, this type of score has become a cliché in itself, and this is one of the worst, most obvious musical tracks to accompany a film of this type that I have encountered. While there is nothing "wrong" with the music, it simply does everything that you would expect, presenting nothing that is even remotely different to the myriad of other soundtracks like this. Ugh.

    The surround channels were extremely active throughout, not just during action sequences. There were many instances where sound pans around the entire sound-stage creating a very immersive effect that would have been much scarier had it been backed up by better on-screen action. In short, this film really does service to surround sound systems.

    The subwoofer is used extensively to support the lower frequencies of the soundtrack, and gets a very impressive work-out in some scenes. There is certainly nothing to complain about here.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There are no extras worth the name present on this disc, and what is present is quite embarrassingly bad.

Menu

    The menu is 16x9 enhanced, themed around the movie and features a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. It is also static.

Cast and Crew

    This consists of pathetically small biographies for most of the cast and the principal crew. The most glaring omission from these are any form of filmography at all. Additionally, there are some spelling mistakes to be found, including peoples names (anyone know who Josh Harnett is?).

Synopsis

    Just in case the blurb on the back of the case wasn't enough - here it is again! This time, you can have a whole extra paragraph too! How anyone can think that this is a worthwhile extra is completely beyond me.

Dolby Digital Sydney City Trailer

    Following the conclusion of the movie is the DVD Technologies Sydney version of the Dolby Digital trailer.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    We appear to be the only country with Ripper: Letter From Hell on DVD at present, although there is supposedly a release upcoming early next year in R1. I could not find any details of that release however, so for now I would have to say that we here in R4 land are no-contest winners.

Summary

    Ripper: Letter From Hell is about as bad a slasher movie as I have seen. The only redeeming feature is that it is quite easy to laugh at. There is, however, no question that the DVD it is presented on is first rate.

    The video is almost reference quality, being let down only by a slight lack of detail.

    Like the video, the audio is almost reference quality, let down only by some slight distortion for short periods in the soundtrack.

    Anyone who gets excited over the extras on this disc has most likely never used a DVD before - the extras are pathetic, somewhat embarrassing, and not even worth the effort of moving the selector to view them.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Nick Jardine (My bio, it's short - read it anyway)
Sunday, December 23, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using S-Video output
DisplayRCA 80cm. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS787, THX Select
SpeakersAll matching Vifa Drivers: centre 2x6.5" + 1" tweeter (d'appolito); fronts and rears 6.5" + 1" tweeter; centre rear 5" + 1" tweeter; sub 10" (150WRMS)

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