Written and directed by Steve Lawson, Ripper Untold is a fictional interpretation of the Jack the Ripper murders that took place in the Whitechapel district of East London in the late 19th century. To this day, the serial killer remains unidentified, fascinating true crime aficionados across the globe. With Ripper Untold, Lawson twists the narrative, delivering a shocking conclusion to the age-old question: who was Jack the Ripper?
Whitechapel, 1888. The body of a young woman, later identified as Polly Neilson, is found with her throat slashed; her lifeless corpse gaining the attention of Stubb (Chris Bell), a journalist for the local broadsheet. Following the discovery of her mutilated body, Inspector Rees (Phil Molloy) of Scotland Yard is brought in to investigate the murder, aided by the Whitechapel coroner, Locque (Jonathan Hansler).
Mary Jane Keates is the next victim to be found in Whitechapel; disembowelled, throat cut wide open, and a kidney removed post-death. Details of her injuries were quickly spread throughout Whitechapel in the tabloids including information that should have been known only to the inspector and medical examiner post-mortem. Then the letters started to turn up in Stubb's possession. Written in scarlet red ink, the serial killer had given himself a name: Jack the Ripper! Through his own blackout drinking, Locque becomes paranoid. He knows the faces of these working girls. He has escaped his wife Elizabeth's (Sylvia Robson) cold-eyed gaze many a night to lay on their warm bosoms. Could he be the cause of their deaths? How can he know for sure if he can't remember?
Like many Ripperologists, the mystery of Jack the Ripper is something of a morbid curiosity of mine. I've read many books on the subject, and have overindulged in movies depicting the Whitechapel murderer. Most take liberties with the facts of the investigation, and Ripper Untold is no exception; although it never claims otherwise. Instead, Steve Lawson has crafted his own unique take on Ripper-lore, limited only by Ripper Untold's meagre budget.
Regardless, Lawson and his crew have done well to evoke the period setting of East London in 1888 through costume and set design; Jon O'Neill's cinematography capturing the mood of the candle-lit interiors. Ripper Untold rarely deviates from four claustrophobic locations - scenes frequently playing out with shot/reverse shot - feeling more like a filmed whodunit stage play rather than your usual direct-to-video slasher.
Indeed, there is a total lack of on-screen killings, the director instead focusing on dialogue to keep the plot moving along nicely. Phil Molloy and Jonathan Hansler steal the show as Rees and Locque respectively; their deliberations keeping the audience interested throughout, until the satisfying, albeit highly implausible conclusion.
Gorehounds may find themselves disappointed, but the detailed description of the mutilations Jack the Ripper inflicted on the victims, spoken over brief shots of Stephanie Harrison's grotesque special effects, will leave most feeling squeamish. Lawson's interpretation of the Whitechapel murders is a respectable, no-fuss shoestring budget murder mystery done right.
Ripper Untold is out now on DVD and digital.