Ripper 2: Letter From Within (2004)
WRITERS: Screenplay by Jonas Quastel & John Sheppard
Additional screenplay by Pat Bermel
Story by Evan Tylor & Jonas Quastel
DIRECTORS: Lloyd A. Simandl & Jonas Quastel
STARRING: Erin Karpluk as Molly Keller
Nicholas Irons as Erich Goeth
Jane Peachey as Lara Svetlana
Mhairi Steenbock as Juliette Dureau
Colin Lawrence as Roberto Edwards
Myfanwy Waring as Sally Trigg
Daniel Cooman as Grant Jessup
Richard Bremmer as Dr. Weisser
QUICK CUT: Molly Keller is still crazy, may or may not be Jack the Ripper's descendant, and still trying to get help. This time, she's subjected to a highly experimental virtual reality treatment to cure her sociopathic tendencies, and it works a little too well.
Molly Keller - She tries to be our heroine, but she's also the villain, since she's kinda Jack the Ripper. She's insane, she's not, she's violent, she's not. She's a floor wax AND a dessert topping.
Eric Goeth - Molly's fellow patient. He has issues. That's all they really say. He's also the romantic interest. And that is all he gets for a personality.
Lara Svetlana - She's a pyro.
Juliette Dureau - She...you know, I don't even remember what her problem is, and can't be bothered looking it up.
Roberto Edwards - A gang banger with violent tendencies.
Sally Trigg - She has anger issues.
Grant Jessup - He's a pervy sexual deviant. And Irish.
Dr. Weisser - The uh, brains behind the experiment. He seems to generally care about helping these patients with his experimental treatment, but he's also willing to push the boundaries of safety.
THE GUTS: After the opening credits don't quite recap the first movie, but uses plenty of footage from the final moments, I still get the weirdest feeling I've seen this again as this movie's Molly regives A.J. Cook's final speech about being Jack. And I have to say, I prefer Molly II's interpretation better. Cook's was rushed, sped through, and just dropped in our laps like she wanted to get done with the movie. Erin Karpluk's take on it is slow, methodical, more predatory, and actually draws you in towards Jaqueline's menace.
While that's going on, the feeling that this has all happened before continues, as they redo the final scene of Molly stepping into 1888, but this time with Molly II, naturally. Again, I prefer this version, since they put Erin in something more period appropriate. She feels more like a Jack, more menacing than Cook's version. Cook was just strolling through, Karpluk is on the prowl. Which makes sense. The first one was just going for a weird ending, this is establishing a character. The black coat instead of white helps, too.
We also see her first victim in this dream state, and I'm still not sure how this all fits into anything. It's an odd scene, as much as it was in the first movie. And it doesn't make any further sense as we go on.
After Molly stalks around the crowd gathered at her victim's corpse, we move ahead a hundred years or so to the present day. We're back in a mental institution, but rather than screaming awake, Molly's getting a psych review and seems much calmer curled up on the chair, than she did strapped to a gurney.
The foolish doctor leaves his letter opener on the desk while he gets distracted by some noise outside, so Molly grabs it and gives him a brand new piercing up through his chin.
No wait, she doesn't. Molly snaps back awake in her chair with the doctor alive and well. Yes, get ready, this movie can't decide on reality or fantasy. Which makes sense for Molly's brain, but gets real old. Because the first movie didn't have enough twists for it and its sequel.
Back in the really real world, the doctor explains they've run out of treatments for Molly. But they have something new and experimental concocted that will put her into a state where reality is suspended and becomes fantasy, where the mind believes it's real, but it's not real. Um, isn't that the problem?
They give her a bunch of warnings about the safety, or lack thereof, for these procedures. She still signs the forms, and they ship her and the movie off to Prague. I hear movies can be made on the cheap there these days! And Ripper 2 takes full advantage of being made on the cheap.
On the way there, Molly again flashes back to the first movie, with her younger, blonder self scampering through the woods and stumbling through the crime scene some more. They also briefly flash onto Jason Korda in his final moments, and wisely remember not to show Molly I's face.
Finally we arrive at Castle Frankenstein, and Molly is prepped for their procedure. The doctors, such as they are, notice a weird glitch in her readings while they're shoving wires and drilling holes into her brain. Because there's a normal baseline for that?
Molly wakes up in what might as well be a dungeon, and realises she's back in 1888, while we're watching a black cloaked figure do some murdering on the side. If that's supposed to be Molly's Ripper side, why don't they show her like that? They've already established it.
Dr. Weisser appears in 1888 as well, to calm Molly down and he explains this is an inherited memory. Yes, not until the sequel do they come right out and say Molly is the descendant of Jack the Ripper. I don't know why the first one has that reputation.
So where the first movie tried to have some sense of reality to it, Ripper 2 tries to explain away speaking in tongues, talking to the dead, and some psychoses as memories from our ancestors passed down in the genetic code. Riight.
Molly thinks this is as absurdly crazy as I do, and makes a run for it. She gets chased by Jaqueline who is suddenly the female version again midway through the chase. There we go! I don't know why they try and play this up as some big reveal, since we already saw it ten minutes ago.
So yes, this new therapy happens in virtual reality. A virtual reality headtrip movie in 2004. Really? Large chunks of this movie simply don't happen anywhere but in a virtual world. You will be truly surprised at just how much!
Dr Wiseass then takes Molly around the castle to meet her victims...um, fellow patients. We start with Eric who has unspecified problems. Oh, and he's the love interest this time around. Bring back Jason!
We are introduced to Juliette, Sally, Roberto, Grant, and Lara. They're each in for different reasons and psychoses, and beyond that, they don't get much more character development. They're actually worse off than the cannon fodder in the first movie.
Grant the sexual deviant tries to hook up with Anger Management Sally, but she has, y'know, taste in men so shoots him down. But since Grant's lone character trait is perv, he spies through her keyhole as she undresses.
The door falls open in classic sitcom fashion and he gets caught and shooed off. If this was a video, we'd play the sad trombone sound here, folks.
But later, we're back to keyhole vision and Sally chases Grant off again. Or she would if a black-robed person with a sword didn't try to cut her head off and chase her down the hall to the rocky outcropping they keep inside. Yeah, not the best sense of geography here.
Sally runs around the older part of the castle, barely evading the mysterious killer. I don't know why they bother hiding it, since it turns out to be EXACTLY who you think it is. But anyways, she goes back to her room, and tries to escape through the window. Because the miles of hallways were suddenly inaccessible?
Gasp surprise, Molly is suddenly there to help Sally back in the window! How did she get there so fast? Whyever was she wearing her hood up??
But since we're a third of the way through this movie, people need to start dying, so Sally slips and falls to her doom. Nice, an accidental death in a slasher movie. That's always a let down.
Molly tries to save her, fails, and slips herself. She only gets saved when her hand catches a nail on the overhang. Convenient, that.
The nail doesn't hold long, so Molly falls, spins through the air, and then falls through a Stargate. She wakes back up in the hospital with no wound, and oh yeah, that was all in the virtual world. Surprise! No?
Doctor Wiseass at least seems pleased that Molly is actually showing remorse over Sally's death, which is an improvement over Molly I's uncaring attitude to, well, everything.
Molly remembers Sally dying, but the doc tries to explain it away as her having an adverse reaction to the treatment. Molly can't see Sally to prove she's alive, since she was 'sent home to England'. She attacks Wiseass with a pen, but he convinces her that it was all in their heads when he points out her stigmata is gone.
Once Molly is gone, the doctors yell a lot about Sally being dead not being part of the plan, and Wiseass keeps the program running simply because he doesn't want to waste months of work for a glitch. Yeah, they should've taken more time for Windows Vista too.
While the techboys do some maintenance and apply some patches, Doc Wiseass takes the crew on a tour of Prague. Yep, we get a random history lesson in a crap movie. It doesn't seem like the wisest move to tell the mentally disturbed people about all the blood and death the city has seen. And isn't it dangerous to take convicted murderers like Molly out and about?
Showing them a collection of torture objects in a museum can't be much better. That's like showing Jaqueline the best places to shop for toys.
Grant breaks off from the group, because he has better things to see than sharp and pointy objects of death. He finds a pair of women, because he's a sex fiend you see, and wanders to a nearby sexual deviant club.
Molly and Eric sneak away from the group too, and Molly quite rightly notes that things don't seem real. She's always been observant. The doctor interrupts them and tells them that he's dismissed the group to meet back up at 10. And he does so with the most glaring, intense eyes ever.
While Grant does his pervy thing, Molly runs into a guy on the streets that she recalls from 1888. Man, that's some shoddy casting, they couldn't find another actor, and had to reuse...OH! I get it!
Sadly, Grant's plans to avoid sharp, pointy things doesn't go as planned when the Ripper shows up with a shiny knife, killing one of his dates, and making me fight the urge to make jokes about giving him head.
Jack chases Grant into the basement of the club, which look like corridors from a Stargate spaceship, and he tries shouting out through grates to the party above, but can't be heard over the music and noise. This seems oddly familiar, too.
The Ripper slices off Grant's hands, and sends him back to England with Sally. Molly sees more people she recognises as they all stand over their, uh, perv's body, and realises they're still in the simulation. No one else believes it, until the movie literally burfs on the screen and we're suddenly back at the castle.
Molly catches the rest of the cannon fodder up on the plot, and that their associates must actually be dead, and they can die here too. Because they at least need to have some semblance of stakes in this movie.
Dr. Wiseass shows up to explain more stuff, because that's what this movie needs, more talking. He explains the program has evolved, and he does so in the creepiest way possible. Kelly suddenly recognises the doctor for the Ripper he is, and the cloak floating behind him probably helped some.
But don't worry, it only LOOKS like Wiseass is using the program to live out his Ripper fantasies. Instead, it's Molly's Ripper persona made manifest in the virtual world, because it can. Let the twists begin!
Although, to be fair, making the Ripper persona take form and terrorise Molly is a decent enough way to go with this sort of story. Shame they didn't keep her looking like Molly, but I guess the split screen would have broken what little budget they have.
Once Molly explains that she's the source of the Ripper, at least Roberto has the rather sensible idea of killing Molly. Granted, that might not be the best idea for Molly, but it would work, right?
Sadly, he can't do it. The treatments have been too effective, and essentially neutered these brutal people and turned them into helpless victims. Hooray, science!
The group split up, one half trying to escape and finding a dead jeep (Deja vu again!) and the others going for Wiseass's computers, reasoning they can use the replicas from the real world to try and affect an escape. Where's Neo when you need him?
Roberto chases Lara off while he tries to fix the vehicle, and Jack shows up to help with the repairs. He commences the nail gun massacre by nailing Roberto's hand to the pavement.
Molly gets a front row seat as Jack shows her the killing on one of the monitors. And wait, Molly was awesome with computers in the first movie. She hacked police bullitens and such. Why isn't she helping with this?
She runs to the carport and barely saves Roberto from getting the car dropped on top of him from a jack. By a Jack! That's almost clever. Although after she yanks his hand off the nail, he might be wishing he was dead.
Jack chases them around the grounds, and corners them by a locked gate. Fortunately, the movie burfs again and Molly and Roberto are zapped to another part of the castle, now that Eric and Juliette got the computers to play nice.
I love that Roberto thanks Molly for saving him, and she says the cliche, "You would have done the same for me." Aside from that whole, trying to kill you thing, five minutes ago, right?
Jack knocks out the virtual power to the virtual world, and this is somehow a problem. They have terribly inconstant rules in this world. If Jack can magically control things, others should be able to. The virtual computers not working without unreal electricity should not be a problem. There should be no need to find a virtual generator to get the virtual power back on.
Lara, who got to the lab unseen, and Juliette go hunting for lights, and Lara is terrified, despite the pyromaniac having a big flaming torch in her hands. Way to go, therapy. You've made them fish in a barrel.
They split up, for no particular reason besides becoming easy pickings, and that's just what happens. Juliette finds a working flashlight and Jack at the same time, and he slashes her. She gets away for a moment, so Jack goes back and finishes off Lara, who's having trouble starting a fire. Back to England with you!
Juliette finds a well and thinks it's a good reason to go down there, because...damned if I know. This is reaching 'deserves it' levels of dumb. Especially when she kicks her flashlight into the pool of water below.
Expectedly, Jack cuts the rope and Jules falls to the pool. And somehow manages to find the light in the dark, and the water. Jack quickly sends her back to England too.
Molly stumbles across Lara's body, and suddenly wakes up in her hospital bed in the real castle, maybe. I can't be sure. Which level of the dream is this?
Wiseass tries to calm her down, explain that everything was a deliberate simulation, but she's not buying it. She's understandably freaking out. A third time massacre survivor will have trust issues.
But then we're BACK in the simulation, and Roberto shows up with a pair of pistols. Gee, it would've been nice if those had been established earlier in the movie, like the array of axes and swords EVERYWHERE else. It's the anti-Chekov.
Molly, Eric, and Roberto run from Jack who turns up - and oh hey, the power is back on all of a sudden, with no explanation. As they run, Eric stops to shoot Jack, but is disappeared when Molly looks for him.
The remaining two try to find Eric, and on the way find Jack instead. Roberto is tired of running so decides to buy Molly some time by foolishly running at Jack with a sword and a gun. He fires off the gun way too early and misses, doing little else as he rushes forward. He runs right into Jack's knife, and is sent back to England in the lamest way possible. That wasn't even a fight.
Molly runs and runs to find her boyfriend, and as she does so, the movie flashes back through itself, with random clips from the past 80 minutes. Why? I don't know.
It finally culminates in Molly, screaming into the snowy darkness at Jack, yelling that he's taken everything she's ever had. This is actually a nice scene, and in many ways, in this movie, we see the true Molly. A Molly untainted by Jack, especially now. In the first movie, you have to (reluctantly) look at all her actions as someone who is at least somewhat Jack, or crazy, or a mix of the two. She's not a whole Molly, but here, with Jack seperated out, she can truly be herself, for a brief time, and give voice to a lifetime of frustrations and neuroses. Sadly, the rest of the movie can't be as good.
Molly hears the Ripper whispering her name, goes searching for him, and finds Jack with Eric's head at the edge of his blade. Jack wants to be one again with Molly, which makes sense, since that is kinda the only way he can exist in the real world. He's had his fun, but there's only so much he can do in a video game.
Jack knows that Molly is willing to sacrifice herself to stop him, but offers her Eric's life in return for her body. Molly knows that her and Jack are one, though, and uses the gun she got earlier to blow her own brains out and stop Jack, since she'll be dead.
The doctors finally unplug Molly from the system, but it's too late, what with being dead and all. They do their best to revive her, but it does no good.
But...what? Suddenly the movie rewound ten minutes, and we never went back into the virtual world, as Molly starts stabbing people? I got nothin' folks. It's just as random as it sounds.
And as if the first movie's piling on of bullshit ending after bullshit ending wasn't enough, this movie goes even further. As Molly finds all her dead friends out of the simulation, the movie flashes again, going back even furhter.
To the very beginning. What. WHAT??
Doubleyou. Tee. Eff.
We see all the cannon fodder in the original psych ward, in various states of insanity, or just plain gutted and dying. Remember the doctor being distracted by the noise outside, so Mollyjack could executional him with the letter opener? That original fakeout? NOT a fakeout.
THAT was reality. The only other scene of ANY reality in this whole movie. It was ALL fake. It wasn't just virtual reality, which is bad enough, but can work. But it was a DREAM of virtual reality. This is so...so...GRAH. Did Jack put Molly through all this so she would kill herself, and leave the body in his control? Why am I trying to make sense? What the hell??
Oh, and Wiseass is there to. As the janitor. What a twist!
The movie ends with Molly telling us none of it was real, and stabbing the doctor in the neck. Again. This may be the biggest fuck you a movie has ever given me, saying the entire thing was fake. What a pile of bullshit!
Video: Servicable. This is even more cheaply direct to DVD than the first movie, and very rushed out, without much care put behind it. It's ok, but not much more. The colours are decent though, and everything's clear, but the transfer has its rough patches, mostly visible when paused.
Audio: A poor stereo mix, that is overly quiet. I had to turn my sound up uncomfortably high to hear some of the dialogue.
Best Line: "What do you think I'm doing down here, spanking my monkey wrench?" Roberto while trying to fix the truck.
First Kill: Uhh. Five minutes in, Molly's doctor, shivved through the chin. I'm not sure others count?
Best Kill: Well, whether they really happened or not, we still saw them, but I'll go with Grant's. It was nicely paced, with Jack stalking him through the sex club's dungeon, and cutting off his hands, in one of the gorier effects of the movie.
Blood Type - C: Mostly bloodless, but it had some good moments scattered throughout. Sadly, most of the good effects weren't the fault of Jack, like Molly's hand being stabbed.
Sex Appeal: We've got a movie that has a sexual deviant, a gothy sex club, and that means breasts a plenty, and tons of fetishy scenes in that dungeon.
Movie Rating: Agh. Bad writing, bad acting, characters so thin you can shave with their descriptions. It's shot well enough, although nothing stands out. Erin Karpluk is given a few good moments that manage to be well acted, but even she is wince worthy, especially when she screams. I regret ever seeing this movie, and wish I could go back in time and stop myself from doing so. Two out of five swords on the wall.
Entertainment Rating: I wanted to like this movie, and there is some fun to be had. Much like the movie before it, most of it is at least watchable, with some good jumps, fun scenes, and a few over the top moments. Nothing like Bruce Payne or Jurgen Prochnow in the first film though. That pretty much sums this movie up in all respects; a pale reflection of the original. There's common threads, similar themes, and enough deja vu to choke a whale, but it's just rehashing. And what isn't rehashed is dumb. Virtual reality is a crutch on the best of days, and to have even that be just a dream? So much of this ends up as a waste. That ending ruins an ok, entertaining movie. Three out of five people sent to England.