The Limehouse Golem is a tour-de-force whodunnit of macabre suspense and horror, littered with bloody corpses, red herrings and famous celebrity names of London in the 1880s.
Directed by Juan Carlos Medina, with cinematography by Simon Dennis, the film is based on the novel by Peter Ackroyd which was published in 1994. Taking years to be brought to the big screen, eventually it came together under the auspices of Ackroyd, screenwriter Jane Goldman and Number 9 Films producer Stephen Wooley. And it was definitely worth the wait, because this film is a surprise hit of the summer.
It weaves story, fantasy and social norms of the day into a compelling mystery thriller.
Veteran Police Inspector Kildare (Bill Nighy) is thrown the fascinating case of The Limehouse Golem, a vicious killer on the loose in Limehouse, one of the seediest parts of nineteenth century London, where criminality and child deaths are on the rise. The only clue he has to go on is handwriting in a library book, which is sprawled all over a few pages of the book, presumably the mad recounting of the killer himself, and a message that the Golem has written on the wall at the scene of one of his atrocities.
At the same time he is drawn to the plight of Mrs. Lizzie Cree, (Olivia Cooke) a former music hall star, who is going on trial for the murder of her husband, John Cree (Sam Reid), a journalist and would be playwright.
Lizzie’s story is sad and sympathetic – she is the victim of a cruel, heartless mother, raised in poverty, who by sheer determination and talent becomes a music hall sensation. Befriended by real life entertainer Dan Leno (Douglas Booth) -and master of ceremonies “Uncle” (Eddie Marsan) Lizzie is taken into the hearts of the theatrical family as one of their own.
The characters in The Limehouse Golem are beautifully drawn and played. Douglas Booth is mesmerizing as drag artist Dan Leno (a well known comic singer, who influenced the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel). With his expressive face and winsome ways, you cant take your eyes off him. Olivia Cooke gives a standout performance as Lizzie. They work well together as close comrades in a low life world. Bill Nighy is suitably stern as Inspector Kildare, he is relentless, although his softer side is shown with his fatherly admiration of Lizzie. Sam Reid as the odious John Cree makes a good creep, full of his own importance and rage.
If you want to see a gritty, surreal, dark movie, go and see The Limehouse Golem. It will keep you captive from beginning to end. It also invokes the universal issues of sexism, homophobia and the consequences of emotional pain, while delving into artifice…the human manipulation of events and spin.