Doctor Jekyll Poster

Doctor Jekyll (2023) Review

Doctor Jekyll is the first film from the latest incarnation of genre icons Hammer Films, this revival spearheaded by acclaimed stage producer John Gore. It’s also the fourth time Hammer has adapted Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic story, the others being the spoof The Ugly Duckling in 1959 which featured future Dr. Who Jon Pertwee as Victor Jekyll. The next year, they played it straight with The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll, starring Christopher Lee. And in 1971 there was the most entertaining of the three, Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde.

So while not as identified with the company as Frankenstein or Dracula, Doctor Jekyll is an appropriate enough character to relaunch the brand with. This time out, Eddie Izzard (Whisky Galore, The Day of the Triffids) Dr. Nina Jekyll, who has retired from public life to her country estate after a scandal of some sort. Referred to as a “Trans CEO” in a briefly glimpsed newspaper headline during the opening credits. And that is about all the mention there is of it, something that seems a bit odd. Given both the casting of Izzard and the nature of the central character, I was expecting something more along the lines of the afore mentioned Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde.

Doctor Jekyll 17

Playing opposite Izzard is Scott Chambers (U Want Me 2 Kill Him?, Firenado) as Rob, who is fresh out of jail and needs to secure a job in order to see his daughter. His brother manages to secure him an interview for a live in position at her estate. Despite the objections of Sandra (Lindsey Duncan, A Discovery of Witches, The Wheel of Time), Nina’s long-time estate manager, he gets the job.

“Hammer Films has always been synonymous with boundary-pushing horror, and with ‘Doctor Jekyll’ we wanted to honour that tradition but simultaneously take the structure, humour and horror styles of what people remember and love and bring them back for new audiences to discover. I’m excited for genre fans to discover our adaptation, and hopefully be drawn into the world we have created and go along for the ride!”

Joe Stephenson

Director Joe Stephenson (Agatha and the Midnight Murders, The Alchemistic Suitcase) and writer Dan Kelly-Mulhern have moved the story’s setting from London to the kind of estate that featured in so many of Hammer’s horror and psychological thrillers. For most of the first act, that’s the only connection the viewer gets. It’s not until, accompanied by a sinister turn from Blair Mowat’s (The Mezzotint, Lot No. 249) score, Doctor Jekyll lights a cigarette that burns bright green, that there’s any indication something odd is happening.

Doctor Jekyll 15

Even after that, the biggest threat comes not from Jekyll or her alter ego Rachael Hyde, but from Maeve (Robyn Cara, We Die Young, Trying) the mother of his daughter Ari. She’s heard where he works and plans to take advantage of it by any means necessary. The result is a film that’s more of a bizarre mystery or crime thriller than an outright horror film, with the viewer left to wonder if Hyde actually exists or if Jekyll simply has multiple personalities. And, once it picks up some momentum, it works fairly well up until a rather silly looking burst of effects near the end.

Under the name Scott Jeffrey, he’s been responsible for many of the worst films made in the UK and his acting, while thankfully not that bad, it needs work. The main problem is he can’t seem to permanently lose his stupid smirk. It reappears at many of the wrong moments and makes it hard to believe he’s sincere about changing his life or seeing his daughter. To be fair, when he does lose it, he does do a decent job in the role. But then it pops back up and ruins the illusion.

Doctor Jekyll 16

While not the return to form for Hammer that I hoped for, Doctor Jekyll is an entertaining thriller and worth a watch. And if the mystery and thriller elements don’t work for you, you still get to see Eddie Izzard looking like Ozzy Osbourne and overacting like Nicolas Cage in the film’s finale.

Hammer Films will release Doctor Jekyll to Digital Platforms in the UK on March 11th.

YouTube video
Where to watch Doctor Jekyll
Our Score

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top