‘The Raven’ Review
Quoth the raven “I’ve seen better”.
Edgar Allen Poe’s works are cinematic treasure, and he stands next to Stephen King in terms of influence on the horror film genre. Unfortunately there has yet to be any significant adaptation of Poe’s works since the Vincent Price films; a shame really, since his works are great material for gothic horror and thriller films.
Now, Along comes The Raven, a film about Edgar Allen Poe’s stories where Poe himself is a character. Seems like an interesting concept and twist on adapting Poe’s stories.
The film is a fictionalized account of Poe’s last days. 19th century Baltimore is being terrorized by serial killer who bases his murders on Poe’s stories. To track down the serial killer, Detective Fields enlists the help of Edgar Allen Poe (John Cusack) to help catch the killer. The mouse hunt turns alot more personal when the killer kidnaps Poe’s lover (Alice Eve), and forces Poe to write stories based on the murders, all while giving clues to Poe about the next crime.
If you’ve seen any serial killer film, you’ll know exactly how this plays out. Instead of exploring Edgar Allen Poe’s character, the film is your run of the mill serial killer film, where Poe happens to be a character. Every serial killer convention and trope is played out by the film, right down to the “reveal” at the end. But hey, there’s cool costumes in it, lots of lots of costumes.
But I like serial killer films, and on that account, I enjoyed The Raven. John Cusack is enjoyable to watch (as he is always), and the film does maintain a decent level of suspense throughout. The film also delivers special treats to Edgar Allen Poe readers, with plenty of subtle (and not so subtle) references to his Poe works.
But the film is still has his flaws, mostly regarding how much potential it wastes. Poe would’ve been a very interesting character to explore on film, but instead of an accurate portrayal of brilliant yet tormented writer whose pessimism was reflected starkly in his works, we get a overdramatic Poe, whose exaggerated actions and mannerisms trump his character development.
Furthermore, Poe was the master of atmosphere, with the grim atmosphere of his stories having immense on gothic literature. Unfortunately, the film fails in this regard, and instead of delivering the crushing atmosphere Poe is known for, the film relies on over the top CGI blood and gore.
The Raven is a decent film, and has a unique take on serial killer films. If does lose points though on its failure to live up to its subject, and for taking excellent material and turning it into a mediocre film.