There is always room in my heart for trashy or campy cinema. The kind of movies that frolic around with glee knowing that they aren’t polished Oscar-winning classics but they are going to give you one hell of a ride. This is seemingly always the case with Victorian murder mysteries – slightly exploitative, gory, but a lot of fun. Films such as From Hell or The Woman in Black aren’t necessarily great but you are going to strap yourself in for a genius thrill ride filled with hammy dialogue and impressive costumes Juan Carlos Medina’s The Limehouse Golem plays with all these elements and then some, gifting us with a provocative and engaging romp.
Set in 1871, The Limehouse Golem revolves around a sinister killer stalking the streets of London and committing heinous murders. On the other side of London, Elizabeth Cree awaits the trial of the poisoning and murder of her husband, where she is main suspect. Inspector John Kildare is called to investigate the most recent Golem murder where he finds, chillingly, that Cree’s case overlaps – could her late husband be the Golem? With suspects including Karl Marx, and famous entertainer Dan Leno, can Kildare solve the mystery?
Let’s put all our cards on the table: The Limehouse Golem is a puffed out, cheesy murder horror flick that has hammy dialogue, a twisted plot, and that murky green grading we seem to always depict gritty grimy Victorian London in. The first two thirds play out as predictably as you’d expect, the twisting through the streets made of rain soaked brick and opium literally everywhere. It feels like a shame because Jane Goldman doesn’t typically fall into these cliched pitfalls and it feels somewhat lesser in the beginning. That’s because Goldman is a genius and when it all comes to a head, these piece pull together to craft an insatiable movie adventure. Luckily for us, the film gives exactly zero shits about being this triumphant award season movie. It wants to give a good time and it does, you are thoroughly amused here.
Leading the cast is the always superb Bill Nighy, a wonderful addition to any film, and here he excels as Kildare, a stoic but passionate detective ready to heal London’s bleeding heart. Around him in support are the likes of Daniel Mays, Sam Reid, and Douglous Booth who each craft great characters who don’t always give the game away too easily. Sam Reid,
However, it’s really Olivia Cooke who steals the show here. As Cree, her character is enriched the most, as we flashback to her life and how the killings intersect hers. As we grow to understand the path she has taken up until her incarceration, Cooke unravels with fantastic and rambunctious acting. She is delicate yet ferocious and the Oldham (wahey) bred star is on a stellar trajectory.
I am not going to spoil the film for you but it really ramps up the action coming into the finale third and all the elements come to a shockingly brilliant conclusion. Any screwed face will melt into a gleeful grin (you know, that kinda smile where you shouldn’t be enjoying murders and death as much as this but goddamn it is so juicy, you find yourself smiling anyway.) The atmosphere is both comedic and grave, dancing upon the screen with such gusto that you’ll be swept up in it’s ditty and charm. Medina’s work is an almost musical murderous feat here, it’s spirit akin to Sweeney Todd’s bloody relishing.
The Limehouse Golem is a tortuous Victorian killer caper, and you’ll love every moment.
The Limehouse Golem is available on Netflix