The Raven (2012)

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As a horror fan, I have long been a fan of the writings of Edgar Allan Poe. Many horror fans would be able to tell you the same thing, he has created a number of classic works that have cast a long and lengthy shadow over the horror genre. The Pit And The Pendulum, The Masque Of The Red Death, The Raven, The Tell-Tale Heart and The Murders In The Rue Morgue are all superb, as are many other examples I could list here, and it’s no surprise that elements from these well-known tales are used in this film.

Many people have already called The Raven a riff on Seven featuring Poe as the central character engaging in a battle of wits with the serial killer. This isn’t an unfair comparison but I’d also say that the movie has a bit more to it than just that concept. There are some wonderful references throughout, many of them obvious but some of them nice and subtle, for fans of the writer and the set-up allows for a lot of delightful playfulness mixed through the darker moments from start to finish.

John Cusack stars as Mr. Poe, who likes to share his time between wallowing in his misery and wallowing in alcoholic beverages. He’s in love with Emily Hamilton (unsurprising, as she’s played by the beautiful Alice Eve) but he’s also passionate about his writing, despite the fact that it doesn’t seem to be rewarding him enough to cover his bar debts. Things get even worse when Detective Fields (Luke Evans) comes along to ask a few questions. It would appear that someone has been influenced by the works of Poe, someone driven to kill and to leave the corpses in a manner reminiscent of his grisly works.

Director James McTeigue once again provides audiences with something entertaining, slick and stylish. The script by Ben Livingston and Hanna Shakespeare is the best thing about the movie, full of a number of familiar phrases and an overriding sense of just having fun with the idea. The cast don’t quite do it justice but they come close. I love John Cusack in almost everything he does. When it’s a bad movie I still tend to love John Cusack and when it’s a good movie I love John Cusack AND the movie so it’s a win-win situation. Having said that, he starts off this movie with a pretty wobbly performance and then, thankfully, grows into the role as the thrills and tension overshadow the character nuances. Alice Eve is lovely, full stop. Luke Evans is very good as the detective trying to stop the bodies piling up and Brendan Gleeson once again gives another great performance, as the father of Emily Hamilton who strongly dislikes Poe but has to put aside that dislike when Emily is targeted by the killer.

You have to go into The Raven accepting the whole thing as a bit of fun that makes use of Poe and his works. If you want anything more from it or if, good grief, you expect any serious interpretation of the famous poem then you’re going to be sorely disappointed. But if you want entertainment with a few literary touchstones throughout then this is an enjoyable, macabre adventure.

DIRECTOR: JAMES MCTEIGUE
WRITER: BEN LIVINGSTON, HANNA SHAKESPEARE
STARS: JOHN CUSACK, ALICE EVE, LUKE EVANS, BRENDAN GLEESON, KEVIN MCNALLY, OLIVER JACKSON-COHEN
RUNTIME: 110 MINS APPROX
COUNTRY: USA, HUNGARY, SPAIN

Film Rating: ★★★½☆

2 Comments
  1. John Chard says

    Hiya Kev

    It’s funny that we are only a point in difference in our rating, but at odds with the content of the film. I had fun with it, no question, I do like a good detective yarn and like yourself the Poe factor is interesting, but there’s problems in it that irritated me greatly.

    Excerpt from my own review >

    Elementary my dear Edgar.

    It’s a real smart idea that the makers have here, putting their own theory forward on what happened in the lead up to Poe’s death. Essentially a period whodunit procedural as Poe (Cusack) and Inspector Emmett Fields (Evans) race against time to find the person who is killing in the style of Poe’s literary works. Poe’s love interest, Emily Hamilton (Eve), is in grave danger, so as to add extra peril and suspense into the clock ticking drama.

    It’s a safe piece of entertainment, one that acquaints the uninitiated with Poe’s work and his life struggles away from the writing bureau. The detective angle is fun and the murders grizzly and appropriately Gothic in execution. Unfortunately it rarely convinces as a period piece. The dialogue is often out of sync with the era, Eve is miscast, the score is inappropriate and it always feels like actors playing at period rompery.

    It’s a shame that it is bogged down by such irritants because Teague’s direction is stylish, while the art design deserves a round of applause. Cusack is fun to watch, but more at ease playing Sherlock in the second half of the piece than a tortured soul in the first, and Evans is confident in the straight backed gentleman detective stakes. There’s a good time to be had here on a surface whodunit follow the clues experience, and Poe fans will delight at catching the many references to his life and spiky works, but it unfortunately misses the mark in too many key areas. 6/10

  2. Kevin Matthews says

    Nice work, as usual.
    Yeah, sometimes you either just like or dislike something more, based on something intangible. I knew The Raven was a bit ridiculous, but everything still worked for me. And Alice Eve is never miscast, she’s far too lovely (how dare you, sir). Haha.

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