REVIEW: Doctor Jekyll (2024)

Doctor Jekyll

Some stories don’t grow old.

Whether its The Great Gatsby, 1984, or Frankenstein (to name but a very few), they stand the test of time because they each get a profound truth at the heart of society and the human condition, and are retold with endless new iterations and variations. That said, the longer something sticks around, the more difficult it becomes to do something new with it.

Doctor Jekyll, as directed by Joe Stephenson, is the latest adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’, the archetypal tale about the duality of good and evil within man. The main novelty here lies in it being a genuine Hammer Horror, released by the reborn Hammer Films, and in the casting of trans actor/comedian Eddie Izzard as the titular scientist-monster.

The reimagined Dr. Nina Jekyll is a disgraced pharma CEO, now retired, who lives alone on a grand estate. Suffering from a rare medical condition, she has charged her foreboding estate manager, Sandra (Lindsay Duncan) with finding her a carer. Among the candidates, possibly the first, is Rob (Scott Chambers); eager and inexperienced, apparently none-too-bright, and recently out of prison. Sandra detests him on sight, but Nina sees something in him, but what? And who, exactly, is Rachel Hyde?

Its a promising setup, but Dan Kelly-Mulhern’s script doesn’t know what to do with it. Rob is desperate to see his infant daughter, Ari, of which holding down a job is a crucial part, but his efforts are jeopardised by the presence of his manipulative druggie ex, Maeve (Robyn Cara), with whom he shares an obscure criminal past. Nina is generous and sympathetic, but prone to violent outbursts. Sometimes she lurks sinisterly and smokes. There’s no sense of either character having agency.

Despite Blair Mowat’s efficient violin score and Birgit Dierken’s cinematography – at its best amid the deep shadows and sallow light of Jekyll’s study – there’s no sustained atmosphere, consistent tone, or even genre. Does the film want to be a thriller about a desperate man trying to get his life back together or a campy horror with chess and monologuing? You can do both, of course, but Doctor Jekyll just feels like its figuring it out as it goes. There’s also a supernatural element that comes out of nowhere, less a twist then what remains of the plot careering off the road.

There are a number of decent performances, but Doctor Jekyll doesn’t have anything new to offer. If you want to see Izzard in a twist on a classic horror film, watch Shadow of the Vampire. If you want to see a gender-flipped Jekyll and Hyde from Hammer, watch Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde.

This particular retelling, you can give it a miss.

Doctor Jekyll is available for digital download from March 11th, 2024

Author: robertmwallis

Graduate of Royal Holloway and the London Film School. Founder of Of All The Film Sites; formerly Of All The Film Blogs. Formerly Film & TV Editor of The Metropolist and Official Sidekick at A Place to Hang Your Cape. Co-host of The Movie RobCast podcast (formerly Electric Shadows) and member of the Online Film Critics Society.

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