In 1988, a horror film called Jack’s Back established the directorial debut of Rowdy Herrington, however it was more of a thriller, aside from that it starred James Spader in dual roles, and it marked the 100th anniversary of the Jack the Ripper killings. Herrington used Ripper’s atrocious crimes and the anniversary as a clever mystery movie, the studio tried to slide into the dying slasher market of the horror genre, while ignoring many of the solid points for a good thriller of tracking down a clone killer. The studio made the wise choice of the title change from originally calling it Red Rain, as it had zero connection to the plot, let alone the difficulty of marketing, hence the current title tying back to Ripper pitch storyline. While granted a budget of $1 million, someway, or somehow non-existing promotion assisting in the film falling flat with distribution from Palisades Entertainment Group, however Paramount Home Video rescued the movie, giving it life on then VHS. Scream Factory gave the flick a proper release with a Blu-Ray in 2015, however it was also because of Spader’s rising star power, with a hit television series The Blacklist.

While many know that the infamous killer Jack the Ripper, always continues to stir the boiling pot of theories, including H. H. Holmes, his popularity fed a steady supply of novels and reference material, but has a lasting impact on the cinematic world, especially the horror genre.  His story leading episodes on Kolchak: The Night Stalker and Friday the 13th: The Series, and numerous movies, in fact three movies in 1988. Those creations first Jack’s Back, then Waxwork, which contained a small role of Jack, and lastly the mini-series, Jack the Ripper, in October of that year, starring Michael Caine. Needless to say, the topic of serial killers keeps churning out product for the masses.

First, to set a few things in place, no awards for original content, but an entertainment quality does fill the allotted running time, with James Spader (Wolf [1994]) leading the charge of the movie, portraying dual roles, and Cynthia Gibb assists, together they make for a Holmes and Watson team. Then a minor issue, technically Jack the Ripper copycat not exactly in the movie that much, and the blood-splatter – sorry gore-hounds not present, a lot off screen killings though. Therefore, a movie more based on a whodunit, with the sensationalized story, Spader stars as twins John and Rick Wesford, John a doctor working in a clinic in a poor neighborhood where he grew up, he strives to help his community. Nearby, inspired Jack the Ripper killings occurring and soon enough John finds himself removed from the script and bad news Rick comes to the rescue and becomes the new target of the police. Psychologist Dr. Carlos Battera (Robert Picardo (The Howling [1981])) brought in for insight, but he only informs the taskforce of what they already know about the case, the next person on the Ripper’s hit list. His introduction to the audience is to allow for further advancement of Rick’s storyline, and further explanation of twins, meanwhile portraying the police as typical know-nothing television detectives. How so? Easy, questioning twins that have the same fingerprints, a science existing for well over a 100-years, and then so quickly assigning blame for Ripper copycat crimes without a lot of evidence – oops.  It falls apart when alibi witnesses appear and more red herrings appear before the audience, some very obviously not the primary killer, again, it’s not a true horror movie rather a thriller layer over a crime mystery story.

Herrington’s script and story well designed for his first attempt in the director chair, prior to this he worked in the camera department of the 1984 blockbuster horror film A Nightmare on Elm Street, even so generated a pace film. Many of the action sequences work very well, as do the fight sequences, as most know fighting whether with hands or gunplay (weapons) contains a choreographed dance within, and all it looks nice. Factor in the bizarre police thinking and strategizing then one will find plenty of laughs to break the tension. Just remember if you seek blood, gore, and violence look elsewhere none of it comes in buckets, but Spader nails his performance.


  • One hundred years ago in the city of London a man shocked the world by murdering, raping and mutilating five women. He was never caught. (Video Australia)
  • One hundred years ago the world was shocked by a man they called The Ripper. He was never caught…
  • One hundred years ago, in the city of London, in the East-End slum of Whitechapel, a man shocked the world by murdering, raping and mutilating five women. He was never caught.

IMDb Rating: 5.9/10

Baron’s Rating: 6.0/10