Apparently Poe likes Peter Gabriel, too.
‘The Raven’ finds Edgar Allan Poe (John Cusack) teaming up with a detective to search for a serial killer who has kidnapped the author’s fiancee and has gone on a murder spree that mimics the author’s work.
Edgar Allan Poe is by far one of the most influential writers ever when it comes to the world of horror. Even though I have only read and heard a couple of his writings, I can easily say that for his time, he was very different and many people in today’s world definitely take notice to that. That’s probably why it would be best for some of people to see this flick.
Director James McTeigue does know do one thing right with this period piece here and that is, make it look and feel as dark as you can possibly get it to be. The mood here is very somber as if it was one of Poe’s gothic tales straight from his mind, put out onto film. McTeigue also helps this tone out with a bunch of beautiful set designs that take you into 19th Century Baltimore. Seems like a random place to actually have a whole bunch of mystery, murders, crime, and poetry going on but somehow, McTeigue was able to make it all work and feel as if we were there watching all of this crazy ish go down.
I also have to say that a lot of the gore here, was used to great effect. In a day and age where we have films constantly trying to tone it down for a friendly PG-13 rating for the big box office take in, it’s pretty relieving to see a “horror” flick take so much pride in its gore and barely leave anything out whatsoever. It’s very gruesome and has a couple of scenes that reminded me of ‘Saw’ but with a cooler, 19th Century spin on it that worked as well. The most memorable scene of gory torture probably came from when they use a pendulum here that is not only really brutal, but also really clever by how the poor slob they use to kill, is actually a critic. Here I am, a critic, sitting in the press screening for this movie, seeing a fellow critic get his insides hacked up! Now I am definitely going to watch what I say next about what movie and what actor/actress.
Problem with this flick is that behind all of the beauty, it’s pretty much your standard thriller film that doesn’t really even deliver the goods on that at all. The whole whodunit side of this flick seemed half-baked in the first place because not only did it seem like it ripped off plenty of other mystery thrillers, but it also didn’t bring any tension to the flick either. If a film is going to go down the road of being a whodunit, then it should run with the idea by messing with the audience, giving us clues, giving us twists, and just having a whole bunch of fun with its silliness. Or, you can just not do it all, which is what I think that this film should have done after about the first 30 minutes it started talking about this mystery and the killer.
At the center of this mystery, the flick also tries to stuff a love angle down our throats and instead of giving us more reason to see Poe and his lady friend together, it didn’t carry much steam and sort of made me care less and less about what happened really. Alice Eve looks very sexy and obviously tries her best with the material that she’s given, but her chemistry with Cusack was barely even there. This wouldn’t have been such a shame if the film didn’t rely on this courtship to make this mystery stronger, but they do, and for that reason it sort of just didn’t hold my interest as much as the rest of this flick did. Come to think of it, I actually nodded off a couple of times but please, don’t tell the other critics that.
John Cusack definitely didn’t seem like the type of person that was destined to play Edgar Allan Poe, but then again, who is? Cusack brings a lot of energy and humor to a person that we only know through a bunch of eerie and creepy stories. Yes, Cusack brings him to life with a lot of flamboyancy to him but also made him a compelling person to watch which bummed me out more considering that I think this guy could have definitely done a lot better if the film was just based on Poe’s life, rather than just his final days surrounding some mystery. Then again, the box office returns for this flick may not be so hot so I guess we won’t ever get a chance to see that flick, will we?
Consensus: Gory, entertaining, and featuring a very good performance from John Cusack, The Raven is definitely an enjoyable flick about a figure in literature we don’t know much about, but with a weak script, weak whodunit subplot, and weak romance, the film feels like it should have been more of a biopic rather than one just disguised as a mystery thriller.