If the term ‘fan film’ conjures up images of camcorders and cosplay, rest assured that “Ripper”, written and directed by James Campbell will change your mind. Brooding, handsomely staged and imbued with a creeping sense of dread, “Ripper” is a fascinating slice of historical fiction, imagining Gotham’s dark knight as the dogged protector of a Victorian London terrorised by Jack The Ripper.
Filmed on Teesside, which makes an excellent stand-in for Whitechapel, the recreation of Victoriana is so well accomplished it wouldn’t look out of place in “Ripper Street”. The Ripper’s murders are grisly and gruesome without veering into gratuitous goriness and the real-life character of Inspector Abberline proves an effective surrogate for the usually beleaguered Commissioner Gordon, acting as a thematic structural device to bring in the Batman.
The influence of Christopher Nolan’s take on the Batman mythology is keenly felt, partially in the taciturn, shadowy steampunk figure of Batman himself but mostly in the restyling of Jack The Ripper as this Dark Knight’s personal nemesis, his Joker. Light on action but heavy on atmosphere, the short builds to an effectively ambiguous conclusion which teases the possibility that the reason Jack’s crimes stopped so abruptly is because Batman, this Batman, chose to violate his own moral code.
There are some minor technical flaws which detract from the productions success, notably in the sound mixing where the score – which may not be to everybody’s taste but I enjoyed its John Carpenter-esque qualities – compromises the clarity of the dialogue but it’s a minor complaint given how well the short as a whole delivers on its promise.
While the partial adherence to real historical events precludes a return for Batman’s opponent in any potential sequel, it’s hard to ignore the potential for this property to expand its fictional roster and give us a team up between Batman and Sherlock Holmes for a showdown between the two contenders for the title of ‘World’s Greatest Detective’. In the hands of the team behind this short film, that would be something to relish.
“Ripper” is free to watch, and you can see it below.