Horror / Movie Reviews / Movies / Mystery / Pop Culture / Reviews / Video / Video Reviews

The Raven (A PopEntertainment.com Movie Review)

The Raven

THE RAVEN (2012)

Starring John Cusack, Luke Evans, Alice Eve, Brendan Gleeson, Kevin McNally, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Jimmy Yuill, Sam Hazeldine, Pam Ferris, Brendan Coyle, Adrian Rawlins, Dave Legeno, Michael Cronin, Michael Poole, Michael Shannon, Charity Wakefield, John Warnaby, Matt Slack and Ian Virgo.

Screenplay by Ben Livingston and Hannah Shakespeare.

Directed by James McTeigue.

Distributed by Relativity Media. 111 minutes. Rated R

There is a certain demented genius in making a serial killer movie around the writings of Edgar Allan Poe. It is even more clever to base it around the real-life Poe’s mysterious final days in 1849, when he was found weak and raving on a Baltimore park bench and taken to a hospital, where he died days later.

No one knows what exactly happened to cause Poe’s illness and sudden death. Therefore, director James McTeigue (V for Vendetta), screenwriters Ben Livingston and Hannah Shakespeare and producer/star John Cusack have a little fun with the idea. 

No one, even the filmmakers, believe this is really what happened in Poe’s final days, but that doesn’t mean they can’t turn this long-running literary mystery into an intriguing yarn. And if it strains believability a bit, well so does the best of Poe.

The idea is deceptively simple. In 1849, Edgar Allan Poe is a broke alcoholic. Despite his obvious genius as a writer, he can’t even afford to buy himself a drink in a bar. Poe is self-important, antagonistic, and quite obviously a genius. He only has two things going for him. Despite his limited financial gains, he is recognized as a brilliant writer. He is also in love with a beautiful young society woman named Emily (played by Alice Eve of She’s Out of Your League), though her father (Brendan Gleeson) can’t stand Poe.

A crazed fan of Poe’s decides to bring him some attention by committing crimes that are copied from Poe’s stories. In the first, two people are found murdered in a locked room in which the door is locked, and the window is nailed shut. The police inspector (Luke Evans) finally realizes that there is a spring lock hidden in the window, just like in a Poe story that he had read (though the movie never mentions that the actual killer in “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” was an orangutan.) 

The inspector immediately suspects Poe of being involved, however when another gruesome death happens in the manner of Poe’s story “The Pit and the Pendulum” (this killer goes to some extreme lengths to stage Poe’s stories) they realize that Poe would be an asset in capturing the killer. 

This leads to a cat-and-mouse race in which the killer commits crimes in the manner of Poe’s stories, leaving clues about the next killing at each scene, taunting the police and Poe to catch him. Then he kidnaps Poe’s true love (burying her alive, much like in Poe’s story “The Premature Burial.”). Poe must work desperately to save Emily.

Okay, so it is not the most likely of storylines. And some of the killer’s methods in particular feel unbelievable – how the heck did this guy get a hold of a pit and a pendulum? 

Also, the whole serial killer aspect of the story feels a little anachronistic for 1849 (which was, if you recall, nearly forty years before Jack the Ripper, widely considered to be the first real serial killer). However, this is a fantastical re-imagining of the time period, not a documentary, so it is not completely out of bounds to put some of today’s conditions into the old-world setting. It occasionally takes on the feel of CSI: Olde Baltimore, but for the most part The Raven is a taut and interesting little thriller.

One of the reasons that the film does mostly work is because of the fine work that Cusack does as Poe, capturing that enigmatic figure’s strange dichotomies, his quirky sense of humor, his antagonistic nature, his tortured soul, and his massive self-destructive streak. 

For Cusack’s work alone, The Raven is worth seeing. However, it has an intriguing enough premise and enough interesting set pieces to make the trip worthwhile for even more reasons than that. The Raven is not a perfect film, but it is an entertaining one.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2012 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: April 27, 2012.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s