The Raven (2012)
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