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The Limehouse Golem (2017) Review

Victorian murder mystery features a terrific lead performance.

The Limehouse Golem is a 2017 thriller about a series of murders that has shaken the community to the point where people believe that only a legendary creature from dark times must be responsible.

Set your horror film in late 1880s London and comparisons to Jack the Ripper are sure to be made, but Juan Carlos Medina‘s latest The Limehouse Golem, a murder thriller in the same vein as many who have taken to giving that unsolved killing streak home on the screen uses those expectations to build its own monster in the dark. It’s a familiar story that mixes a bit of Holmesian lore but is nonetheless a good looking one with a terrific turn from its star.

In London, near the end of the 19th century, the city finds itself gripped by the chilling murders of a gruesome killer. With police helpless and the body count mounting, the public has come to call the unknown monster The Limehouse Golem, believing it is not human. Assigned to the case is veteran detective Inspector John Kildare (Bill Nighy) of Scotland Yard who is highly skilled but stunned by the voracity of the killings, hoping his solving the case will redeem his tainted past. He is joined by a local bobby named George (Daniel Mays), a trusty cop who proves valuable for his knowledge of the neighborhoods. Amid all this is Lizzie (Olivia Cooke), a young woman in jail for allegedly poisoning her husband and perhaps connected to the murders. Kildare interrogates and digs into her past, piecing together clues that reveal a twisted story that he must unravel if he’s going to stop the slaughter.

Based on Peter Ackroyd‘s 1994 novel, The Limehouse Golem is less a horror movie than a tightly-paced mystery, made all the more compelling by its seedy atmosphere. The dark corners of the London alleyways and grimy sallow-lit streets are half the reason it remains as convincing as it is. While the story becomes circuitous, with Kildare ticking off his suspects and flashbacks unraveling more of who and what Lizzie is, the film is never visually uninteresting. Medina sets a quick pace and though the plot is perhaps not as deep or as creative as it could be, he builds plenty of suspense, squeezing all he can from the shadows with some creative direction. It’s not a scary movie, but it is unnerving.

The Limehouse Golem
The Limehouse Golem, 2017 © Number 9 Films

All of it rests on Nighy’s mighty shoulders. As the diligent investigator, Nighy makes Kildare a steely-eyed brainiac whose deeply caressing voice and sinewy presence makes for one of his best performances and honestly, the kind of character that deserves a series. That’s not to say there’s any weakness in the cast. Cooke is the other half of the story and gives Lizzie plenty of edge, as do others, including Sam Reid as Lizzie’s husband John Cree and Eddie Marsan as Uncle.

The movie spends a lot of time on Lizzie, which does strip a bit of what could probably be better time on the procedural aspects of Kildare’s investigation, which might feel like a cheat for fans looking to quench their horror-themed thirsts. It tries to balance Lizzie’s murder trial and Kildare’s mounting clues against the Golem, weaving a mystery between the two, and for the most part succeeds as it barrels towards its bloody, twisted finale. This is a tale of human behaviors more than a story of murderous gore, even as it dabbles in such, and while it never packs as much punch as it promises, The Limehouse Golem is an easy recommendation.

The Limehouse Golem (2017) Review

Movie description: The Limehouse Golem is a 2017 thriller about a series of murders that has shaken the community to the point where people believe that only a legendary creature from dark times must be responsible.

Director(s): Juan Carlos Medina

Actor(s): Olivia Cooke, Bill Nighy, Eddie Marsan

Genre: Mystery

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