THE story of Jack the Ripper is one of the great murder mysteries.

It has been the inspiration for many feature films and kept historians, authors and documentary makers in work.

The Limehouse Golem - which opens at cinemas today - is clearly inspired by the Victorian serial killer genre.

Though here the Golem of the title is based on a mythical beast.

The fictitious inter-twined tales here are set in foggy London in and around the music halls and the seedy Limehouse area frequented by prostitutes and bawdy low-life including a lewd dwarf.

Directed by Juan Carlos Medina, it is best described as 'Gothic and gruesome.' 

The lighting is 'spot on' re-creating 1880s London Former Everyman actor Bill Nighy plays Inspector Kildare, a veteran policeman in the twilight of his career, who never cracks a smile and looks pained in every frame.

He is not prone to one-liners or easing the tension with black humour like some of TV's most famous detectives.

The role was intended for Alan Rickman who died before the venture made it to film.

He would probably have added a bit more magnestism to the character.

That said, Nighy offers plenty of gravitas. And he is a dapper-looking figure.

We are told little about him apart from the fact 'he was never the marrying kind.' 

There are other intonations about homosexuality hinted throughout even from the Scotland Yard constable assigned to him.

George Flood is played by the ever excellent Daniel Mays in a wonderfully understated way.

Plenty of red herrings in flashback sequences are provided amid the theatrical, circus-styled backdrop which adds to the sinister goings on.

It is a crisp screenplay from Jane Goldman, based on Peter Ackroyd's 1994 best-seller Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem.

It reminded me of the famous Hammer horrors and is very gory in recalling the murders something the press of the time attribute to the headline grabbing blood-thirsty 'Golem'.

Suspects include Karl Marx and real-life drag artist and inspirational music hall legend, Dan Leno.

Edde Marsan is outstanding as a creepy theatrical manager called 'uncle.' 

He is, like many of the charcaters, not what he seems.

Nighy's Kildare lacks the personality of, say, Sherlock Holmes,

He plays the role more akin to the way Peter Cushing would solve his cases when playing such academic heroes as Van Hesling in Dracula.

The Limehouse Golem is a gripping 100-plus minutes – it's not a classic but it is areal showcase for its talented cast, including Freddie Mercury look-a-like Douglas Booth as Leno.

Olivia Cooke shines in every scene as a prime suspect Elizabeth "Lizzie" Cree – a fading music hall dancer and singer with a torrid past.

The film is dedicated to Alan Rickman – a nice touch.

Cert 15


Three stars