The Limehouse Golem: Film Review

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The Limehouse Golem is based on Peter Ackroyd’s bestselling 1994 novel “Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem.” The city of London is gripped with fear as a serial killer – dubbed The Limehouse Golem after a monster from Judaic mythology– is on the loose and leaving cryptic messages written in his victim’s blood. With few leads and increasing public pressure, Scotland Yard assigns the case to Inspector Kildare (Bill Nighy) – a seasoned detective with a troubled past and a sneaking suspicion he’s being set up to fail.

Kildare is faced with a list of suspects, including music hall star Dan Leno, political agitator Karl Marx, writer and philosopher George Gissing and journalist John Cree. The main evidence is the journal scribbled on the pages of the book found in the library. To confirm his suspicions, Kildare must get help from a witness who has legal troubles of her own (Olivia Cooke), so he can stop the murders and bring the killer to justice.

Lizzie is a young woman with even more troubled past than the one of Kildare. Nonetheless, she managed to make a career of a music hall performer. Having married to a journalist and would-be playwright John Cree, Lizzie’s life seemed perfect until one day her husband is found dead. Elizabeth Cree is now the main suspect in the murder of her husband, who is likely to have been The Golem.

Set in 1880’s London, the film takes us to a race across the capital from The Old Bailey, to Newgate Prison, to the music halls of London and the British Museum. The gripping story is told in flashback as Kildare questions Elizabeth to formulate a defense. The detective also pursues other leads and interrogates other suspects so he can prove the late John Cree guilty by process of elimination.

As Kildare interrogates each suspect, he tests their handwriting which gives the director Juan Carlos Median an opportunity to get creative with visuals and sound design as we envision each character committing these gruesome murders.

There are a lot of twists and turns in the story, with some unexpected ‘surprises’ saved for the closing scenes of the film. Great performance by actors is worth seeing on the big screen if you don’t let Olivia’s ever-changing accent – from cockney to perfectly spoken aristocratic English and back – distract yourself from the plot. The film was exquisitely shot, with fantastic period sets, location and wardrobe. A must see.