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[Review]: Doctor Jekyll (2023)

From the stalwart of British gothic horror Hammer Films comes Doctor Jekyll, a modern adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson literary classic starring Eddie Izzard as the titular character. Complete with an eerie and foreboding English country mansion, strange house staff and a mysterious mistress of the manor, Doctor Jekyll is an exploration of the devastating depths of drug addiction amongst the differing socio-economic classes that make up society.

Directed by Joe Stephenson, Doctor Jekyll centres around the recently released from rehab ex-con Rob (played by Scott Chambers) who must find employment in order to have visitation rights to his child. His older brother suggests Rob attend an interview for an assistant position for the reclusive yet enigmatic Doctor Nina Jekyll. A former leading figure in the pharmaceutical industry, Doctor Nina Jekyll now lives a secretive and isolated life due to a career scandal, haunted by her own demons and ghosts. As Rob moves into the mansion and becomes accustomed to Doctor Jekyll’s eccentric ways, he begins to discover the eclectic doctor is not all that she seems, putting his own life in peril. 

A decidedly reserved adaptation of Stevenson’s gothic novella Strange Case of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde, the film does away with drastic transformation scenes and hideously disfigured alter egos, instead relying heavily on Izzard’s subtleties in her mannerisms and prose. Despite the strength of this performance, the absence of a terrible metamorphosis from Hyde to Jekyll and a deficiency of a clear distinction between the two characters, the film feels lacking in true horror.  Izzard presents audiences with a tropey Hammer villain, a composed and sinister member of the upper class, compared with Chambers’ mumbling and nervous working class every man. What the film does present however is an interesting comparison between the experience of drug addiction of different social classes. Whilst Doctor Nina Jekyll is allowed the space to deal with her narcotic addiction in her own sprawling home, with very little consequence, Rob, a member of a lower standing has returned from rehab, jobless and without any rights to see his child, with the choice of reoffending constantly being brought his way through friends and family. 

Whilst Doctor Jekyll adapts the original material through a modern lens in a satisfactory manner, it would benefit from pushing the commentary on drug addiction just a little further to increase the horror elements. 

3 Screams Out Of 5

Doctor Jekyll will be available on Digital Download in the UK from 11th March


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