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FILM REVIEW: Doctor Jekyll (2023)

Doctor Jekyll - New Release Review

Director: Joe Stephenson

Starring: Eddie Izzard, Scott Chambers, Lindsey Duncan, Simon Callow, Jonathan Hyde, Robyn Cara

Written by: Dan Kelly-Mulhern,

Produced by: Liam Coutts, Guy de Beaujeu, Joe Stephenson

Cinematography by: Birgit Dierken

Original Score by: Blair Mowat


A modern re-imagining of the infamous Dr. Jekyll from Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 novella The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Doctor Jekyll Film Review


I was pleasantly surprised by this modern retelling of ‘The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’, which is a personal favourite story of mine. Of the film, director Joe Stephenson said, “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.” And I think he delivers. 

The film follows young ex-con Rob (who’s full name is revealed to be Robert Louis Stevenson, a nice nod to the source material) who becomes a live-in carer for Nina Jekyll, an ex-doctor turned pharmacy CEO who is housebound after an ‘accident’ that crippled her leg. Rob’s brother helped him get the job, and he needs it badly – he is not allowed to see his daughter Ari, who was born while he was in prison, until he can prove he is an upstanding member of society. While Nina is in the midst of a huge scandal involving her company, she is still well-known and well-respected, so Rob sees this as the perfect opportunity to prove himself and earn the right to meet his daughter. 

Scott Chambers as Rob in Doctor Jekyll

The story unfolds much as we’d expect. Nina is kind-hearted, if a little eccentric, and is open to Rob, despite protestations from her anal Estate Manager and lifelong friend Sandra, who is against hiring him on the basis of his criminal background. Izzard plays Nina wonderfully, showing her kindness in meaningful, fun ways, and Chambers plays Rob with sincerity and a hint of cheekiness. We like them, we like their dynamic, and it makes their ultimate fate at the end of the film almost sad.  

Their interactions when Izzard transforms into Hyde, subtly shown by slight changes in mannerisms, costume design, and a penchant for smoking, prove to be unsettling but compelling. When Nina becomes Hyde, Stephenson shoots her from behind her ear and the viewers soon know that this is a tell while Rob remains in the dark. It’s a simple way of making the film feel voyeuristic and that we’re almost complicit in Rob’s fate because we could see what was happening but couldn’t stop it. Hyde is utterly unhinged and relishes in toying with Rob and the twist at the end not only feels earned but inevitable.  

What I liked in particular was that the modernisation of having Nina as a trans woman does not feel forced nor is it a central part of the story. Nina is a main character who just happens to be trans; her identity is not the focus of the story, and that’s refreshing. Stories with trans characters don’t have to focus solely on this aspect of their identity. 

The set design is classic Hammer. It’s beautifully gothic and over the top, harking back to decades of gothic-infused horror that made the studio famous. The house feels almost like Christopher Lee’s ‘Dracula’ home, very old fashioned and furnished to the nines with fancy décor. It’s nostalgic but not self-indulgent. One piece of the set design I especially appreciated was a piece of artwork from Franz Kafka’s ‘The Metamorphosis’, thematically linking the two tales. The sound design also feels classically Hammer. There are whimsical moments where it feels like a cross between Danny Elfman and ‘Inside No. 9’, and moments where it feels sinister and over-the-top, but in a fun, quintessentially gothic way. 

Eddie Izzard as Nina Jekyll in Doctor Jekyll

The cinematography is absolutely beautiful. The use of sunlight and night shots contrast perfectly. Nina is shown mostly during the day, with the sun softly lighting her, while Hyde is predominately shown at night by the light of fireplaces and candlelight, the shadows hinting at her true self. One of my favourite scenes, and a brilliant way of linking the original Victorian story to the present, is the revelation of how you become Hyde: a chemical compound inhaled through a cigarette, the tip of which turns green. The director and cinematographer worked together to create a flashback sequence in black-and-white to the original Dr. Jekyll, with only the green tip of the cigarette in colour. It works well and is stylish in a way that, again, feels classic Hammer. 

Overall, ‘Doctor Jekyll’ is a fun ode to old Hammer Horror, with a great cast and a strong director. The film isn’t particularly groundbreaking, but it’s not supposed to be. New and old fans of Hammer will enjoy this one, and perhaps it’ll prompt them to revisit the classics, while exciting them for the future of the studio.

Verdict: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

-Victoria Brown

'Doctor Jekyll' is available on Digital Download March 11th

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