I knew very little about The Limehouse Golem going in. I knew it starred Bill Nighy in the lead role (a role that was originally meant for the late, great Alan Rickman), that it was a period piece, and that it centered on killings in London. My precious little knowledge on the film couldn’t have prepared me for what I was about to witness.
The Limehouse Golem was directed by Juan Carlos Medina from a script by Jane Goldman based on a novel by Peter Ackroyd. The film stars Bill Nighy, Olivia Cooke, Eddie Marsan, Douglas Booth, Maria Valverde, Sam Reid, and Daniel Mays.
A series of murders has shaken the community to the point where people believe that only a legendary creature from dark times – the mythical, so-called Golem – must be responsible.
My experience with Victorian horror films is non-existent. After bearing witness to The Limehouse Golem, I may have to remedy that. I was blown away by this film. It centers on Bill Nighy’s Inspector Kildare, a man with a firm belief of right and wrong who is unwilling to be put in charge of investigating the murders of the mysterious Limehouse Golem, thought by locals to be a creature from Jewish folklore. This is just superstitious hokum. The eponymous Golems are human, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t monsters. They leave taunting messages that refer to their crimes as being works of art, and they are smart enough that they won’t get caught unless they want to, despite Kildare’s best efforts. One of the film’s strongest points is the way it’s executed. Most of the suspects have motives, and you could see them being the killer. When Inspector Kildare is questioning them and having them write the killer’s words to see if the handwriting matches, we are shown the suspect committing the gory murder, reveling in the bloodshed. The film keeps you guessing until the closing minutes when all is revealed. The twist left me slack jawed and speechless, questioning everything I had witnessed.
I really dug the acting in The Limehouse Golem. I like Billy Nighy quite a bit, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen him in a leading role. I’m used to see him play a curmudgeon in a supporting or villainous capacity. I was curious to see how he would pull off a heroic role, especially with the ghost of Alan Rickman looming over the character. The role of Inspector Kildare was a nice change of pace for Nighy, who gives his all to the performance of a lawman who honestly cares about people, takes it hard when they can’t be saved and leaves no stone unturned to stop a madman. Nighy plays the character as competent, warm and likable.
Olivia Cooke was a revelation as co-star Lizzie Cree. Lizzie is a character who has been through Hell and back, and when we meet her, she is about to be thrown head first back into the fire. Cooke gives a powerhouse performance which is layered and nuanced. She is a complicated character who has had a hard life. She is easy to sympathize with, but at least some of her personal Hell was because of her own choices, leading her down a path that sought to destroy her. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Douglas Booth, who expertly played actor Dan Leno, a man who is incredibly hard to read. One the surface, he appeared warm and caring, but there was a darkness under the surface. Having not been familiar with Cooke and Booth before viewing The Limehouse Golem, I will definitely be keeping my eye on them.
The Limehouse Golem is a wonderfully twisted and affecting period horror film full of heart and soul. The acting was superb all around with the high points being Nighy, Cooke and Booth. If you are looking for a dark, disturbing and moving bloodbath that will leave you dazed, then I honestly cannot recommend The Limehouse Golem enough. Definitely a contender for one of my top films of the year.