Review: The Limehouse Golem

A series of murders has shaken the community to the point where people believe that only a legendary creature from dark times – the mythical so-called Golem – must be responsible.

A period drama, no wait a period horror thriller starring Bill Nighy, yeah I’m up for that. From the trailer I got a very Ripper feel, something I couldn’t really shake as I watched the film. However the story is set before the Ripper, though I still get the feeling the book is heavily inspired by that story.

I do like the Ripper stories, so this film appealed to me a lot, I was really looking forward to it, did it disappoint?

No, actually it didn’t, I really quite liked it, however due to its plot arc’s this review will be more about the look, the acting, gore (yes it had some nice gory moments) and music as I really don’t want to spoil this for anyone.

Bill Nighy and Olivia Cooke lead the cast in what is a rather slow burning thriller, the gore takes it into horror territory on occasions but I wouldn’t call this an out an out horror film. Nighy is John Kildare a police investigator assigned to the ‘Golem’ murders where his murder enquiry crosses paths with another ongoing murder trial. The wife (Cooke) of suspect John Cree is accused of killing her husband. As the investigation unfolds Kildare believes that Lizzie Cree (Cooke) might have had an ulterior motive for her crime. That’s all you are getting, if you like whodunit’s then add this to your watch list, I had my suspicions but they soon got dismissed and all further suspicions were incorrect!

So let’s have a look at the technical achievements, London in this period looked pretty good, set design was pretty good too. While costumes were excellent. With some great cinematography the overall look was excellent. The score was good, though nothing really stood out it fitted the tone of the film very well. Jane Goldman was on screenplay duties and the script was on point which is always a benefit for the cast.

Nighy is Nighy and his style of acting really suited the film, I can’t think of anyone else who might have played the role any better. Olivia Cooke was very good as was Douglas Booth. Booth seems to be a go to period actor at the moment and he was perfect for his role here. Daniel Mays an actor I always find who delivers fine performances even in small roles did so again. Mays plays Flood the beat copper assigned to work the case with Kildare and is excellent foil for Nighy. In a rather small role we also have the brilliant Eddie Marsan, again another great delivery with very little screen time.

I did mention there was some gore, it’s not excessive (well not to me maybe) but it has its moments. There is a nice little cringe moment at the end of the film which surprised me, and I will leave that there.

Overall The Limehouse Golem is a solid film, from the cast and script to the whodunit element, as I said it has strong Ripper overtones with a dash of Sherlock Holmes thrown in as well.

A Jane Goldman script, Bill Nighy in the lead, & a period horror? sign me up! The trailer looked incredible – I couldn’t wait.

Bill Nighy stars as officer Kildare, in the case of a lifetime. Chasing the titular Limehouse Golem through the streets of the East End – a psychotic murderer who is legally different but blatantly influenced by Jack the Ripper. Mix in Olivia Cooke (Emma in Bates Motel) as disgraced vaudeville star Lizzie Cree, whose performance barring the last 10-15 minutes is one of the best things in this film. As Nighy follows the investigation the Golem case intertwines with that of the poisoning of Cree’s husband. On paper the film sounds like a great story unsurprisingly it’s based on a book (Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem). With Goldmans magic touch for successful scripts (Woman in Black, Kick Ass, Kingsman etc) It’s easy to see why this was turned into a film.

Cut to the opening of the film and Douglas Booth as vaudeville star Dan Leno appears centre stage. I winced, it was a scene of such horrific acting, such a bad accent and was just…. Weird.
While the film sharply improved, Douglas Booth remained an uncomfortable and irritating character, on and off stage he spoke with such a bad stereotypical cockney accent it became extremely grating as the film wore on.

I must point out that the film looked incredible from start to finish the costumes and sets are hands down gorgeous. Eddie Marsan as Uncle give a truly stand out performance for the minimal screen time he has. As good as it looked there were some unfortunate issues, accents remain an issue for a large chunk of the cast. As the film passed the hour mark it just started to fall apart for me, the pacing stutters, unneeded vaudeville music hall numbers and skits pause the plot at an increasing pace. Bill Nighy’s stiff upper lip act gets old and irritating and Douglas Booth somehow has a worse cockney accent than Dick Van Dyke (no joke).

The ending is painfully obvious early on and each additional twist or side note is telegraphed 5 minutes ahead of time. Cut out the extreme blood and violence and you’re watching a Sunday afternoon drama on ITV. I was glad to leave as the credits rolled.

Went into this episode of Sherlock, sorry film, not knowing anything about it, and I feel that this gave me a significant advantage. Blissfully unaware of the plot, my interest was held the whole time, despite the ‘twist’ being rammed so hard in my face it was pornhub worthy.

Based on true events to an extent, so I’m told, the film documents the rise and trial of Lizzie Cree, lovingly played by Olivia Cooke, focusing on her time frequenting the music halls of Victorian London. Opening with the death of her slyly brutish husband John Cree (Sam Reid), tales are spun and flung as disgraced detective John Kildaire, played by the always wonderful Bill Nighy, struggles to catch notorious serial kiler, known as the Limehouse Gollem. Kildaire introduces us to each suspect, allowing us to hear their alibi’s and discover their seedy little, and not so little, secrets. Special mention goes to Douglas Booth, playing Dan Leno, for portaying Russell Brand so eloquently.

With glaringly obvious similarities to any Ripper story you may have heard, it’s effective in its narrative, somehow warmly capturing the feel of the time. The cinematography is industrial, dusty and dark, and sets the mood so perfectly.

All performances are fantastic, each with their own relevant backstory, and they carry the film nicely.

It is fair to say, however, that this piece would be better suited to an ITV festive drama, split it in a two-parter. For how great it is, I don’t feel like it’s suited to the big screen, and would be better received using said medium. The trailer to me suggests a more supernatural outing, so feel that the audience were expecting something along these lines.

Whilst my viewing partners were not as keen, I really enjoyed The Limehouse Gollem, and was interested to see how they concluded what they had obviously set in place early on. I’d recommend this if you had a free Sunday afternoon, as it needs to be seen for the charm alone.

The Limehouse Golem is at cinemas from the 1st September (UK) 




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