Movie Review: The Limehouse Golem

the limehouse golem poster
@lcfremont reviews...

Director: Juan Carlos Medina
Writers: Peter Ackroyd (novel), Jane Goldman (screenplay)
Starring: Olivia Cooke, Bill Nighy, Douglas Booth, Eddie Marsan, MarĂ­a Valverde, Sam Reid


There’s something about a period piece, isn’t there? The clothing looks so rich and proper, everyone speaks with a certain level of intelligence and it just screams of a simpler time without much to do but eat, drink and be merry. Throw in a story about a serial killer and you’ve got yourself a nice, old-timey mystery. The Limehouse Golem is the name given to what people believe to be a mystical creature stalking the streets of Victorian London, but Inspector John Kildare (Bill Nighy) knows this to be the work of a mortal man and he intends to find him.

Centering the story around a music hall of London, The Limehouse Golem weaves the story of a murderer with the trial of a woman, Lizzie Cree (Olivia Cooke), accused of murdering her playwright husband. Lizzie had a hard childhood and she was taken in by the legendary actor Dan Leno (Douglas Booth) after her mother’s untimely passing. After making a name for herself in the acting world, she marries John Cree (Sam Reid) and tries to settle into a the life of a proper wife. After John’s death is ruled homicide rather than suicide, Lizzie must prove her innocence.

Kildare has come into possession of the diary of the Limehouse Golem and he believes the Golem is also the one responsible for John Cree’s death, which would mean Lizzie is innocent. Leno is utilized as a means of telling the stories of both Lizzie’s past and present and it’s also a fun look into Victorian theatre. With a strong cast, a unique way of sussing out the killer’s identity and the overall feel of a Hammer horror film, The Limehouse Golem is a pleasant, but not entirely satisfying film.

Kildare’s sexuality comes into play and it just feels…icky and out of place. Though there is, technically, a reason to bring it up, the story would have been fine without it and so one has to wonder why it was kept in at all. Thankfully, Nighy is the kind of actor who can rise above this and he shrugs it off in such a way that we feel free to do the same and also focus on the Golem. As Kildare imagines different people committing the crimes, we are treated to some seriously gruesome and gory murders which feel all the more gritty in contrast to how beautiful the film is. Directed by Juan Carlos Medina, the colors utilized in the storytelling are just as important as all of the other details that were, clearly, pored over.

As Kildare zeros in on the murderer, he finds himself at a moral crossroads and, quite frankly, this is when the movie really gets interesting. But, unfortunately, after a reveal that was not the least bit shocking, this part of Kildare’s story is hurried along. Nighy and Cooke work wonderfully together and watching their relationship unfold a bit more would have been far more satisfying than the identity of the Limehouse Golem. Essentially, it’s a beautiful movie with an interesting premise that is made more engaging by the actors, but somehow, it all falls a bit flat. You’ve seen this period piece and serial killer story a million times before and that’s why it’s a shame that the story between Kildare and Cree, and beyond that, the treatment of women in Victorian times, isn’t the main focus because that would have made for a truly fresh and intriguing film.

Lisa Fremont | Twitter: @lcfremont
Images: IMDb