A Flawed But Enjoyable Dark Gothic Thriller
In the mist-filled, sickly green streets of 1880s London lurks a sinister evil. Before Jack The Ripper quivered the lips of Londoners there was another who inflicted the same goosebump inducing fear. The Limehouse Golem. The film opens with popular stage actress Lizzie (Olivia Cooke) on trial for the murder of her husband. Intertwined around this is Inspector Kildare (Bill Nighy) who desperately seeks the true identity of the killer whom Lizzie may well hold the key to uncovering. What follows is a methodically paced mystery to find out what really happened and more importantly, who the Golem really is.
Going into this film expecting an outright horror is sure to disappoint some people. The Limehouse Golem works best as a Gothic Mystery with a tad of Thriller elements on the side for good measure. Its impressively dressed sets do a great job of setting the mood; wisps of smoke and shots coloured in warm oranges and sickly greens help give a real sense of unease throughout. The mystery unravels at a decent pace too despite the convoluted way of storytelling that skips between three different time periods. The nightmarish, dual-tone pitched killer with different suspects re-enacting the murders is really nicely presented though and contrasts beautifully with the loud, boisterous stage performances in Lizzie’s past. Tying these two contrasting time periods together is the present where the film follows Kildare’s investigation.
The authentic dialogue oozes charm, teasing a poetic bounce as the script jumps between time periods. Whilst the stage performances by Lizzie do a good job of setting the atmosphere of the time, they don’t do much to advance the plot beyond building character. For vast periods of The Limehouse Golem it sustains just the right level of dread and mystery to move the plot along, even if it is a little too slow paced at times. This definitely won’t be a film for everyone though, with cracks forming late on as the plot speeds up, leaving in its wake a few unresolved subplots to wrap up the mystery and the overarching plot. The surprise ending works well and comes out of nowhere, but it also manages to disguise some of the more inherent problems with the film’s subplots that are never resolved.
Whilst the characterisation, set design and unique three time period plot manages to entertain throughout, its also a film that’s quite niche in the audience its bound to appeal to. There’s certainly enough here to like and digest, but its slow paced plot offsets the initial premise of this being a horror or a thriller. As an interesting murder mystery set in the 1880s, The Limehouse Golem can do no wrong but going into this expecting thrills or a Gothic Horror rife with fear and shocks, you won’t find it here. The characters weave the poetic, dreamy dialogue with flair throughout and Bill Nighy is excellent as the troubled Inspector but its structural issues ultimately hold it back from being the memorable film it so easily could have been.