Although James McTeigue’s film “The Raven” hit theatres last summer, I found it appropriate to review the macabre tale as it was just released on DVD in time for Halloween last week.
“The Raven” stars John Cusack as Edgar Allen Poe, the mysterious 19th century American writer famous for his chilling poems and short stories. Cusack, in my opinion, plays Poe as wonderfully as anyone could. He captures his egotism but at the same time, shows Poe as a sincere, grief-stricken man whose life experiences have inspired his writing.
“The Raven” takes place in Maryland in 1849, just days before Edgar Allen Poe dies of an unknown cause, but when it begins, he is perfectly healthy. A string of strange murders has been gripping the town, and they are all too familiar to Detective Emmett Fields (Luke Evans) of the Baltimore Police. The gruesome murders mirror Poe’s most famous stories-a woman dead in a seemingly locked room (“The Murders in the Rue Morgue”), and the gory tale of a man being cut by a lowering pendulum blade (“The Pit and the Pendulum”).
When Fields confronts Poe, it is obvious that he is not the one committing the vicious murders. In fact, he is shocked and horrified that his dark, yet very innocuous, stories have caused someone to act in violence. The police enlist Poe’s help to catch the killer, as he knows better than anyone what the he might be up to next.
The film takes Poe and the police around Baltimore in search of the killer and one of his kidnapped victims-Poe’s fiancÃ©e, Emily Hamilton (Alice Eve.) Hamilton is a beautiful young blonde woman who has just agreed to marry Poe, and gives him a very personal incentive to find the killer. It is well documented that the real Edgar Allen Poe lost almost everybody that cared for him and he cared about, and as a historically accurate fiction, this movie does an incredible job showing the desperation of Poe while searching for his love.
I will not say how the end comes about-that is for you to watch and find out-however, I will say that the end is exactly how it was in real life. Edgar Allen Poe is found wandering the streets of Baltimore, dazed and repeating the name “Reynolds.” He died shortly after, and nobody knows why.
Perhaps the real circumstances of Poe’s life, and certainly his death, are what really drove this film. Poe was such a curious character with a mysterious life and death, which made it easy to make a fiction movie while staying incredibly historically accurate.
If the historical context and accuracy of the facts, costumes and props was not the best thing about this movie, it was a close second to the mystique and gore surrounding Poe’s literature. The violence, though fairly limited, was just as Poe made it in his works, gory and chilling. The use of gore was absolutely necessary in a film like this, and the filmmakers did a great job of not overusing those types of scenes. What also helped make this film stand out was the cleverness of Poe in solving the murders. It was almost reminiscent of the way Sherlock Holmes solved crimes, by deduction and keen observation.
In terms of criticism, the only noticeable detriment to the film was the time between action. When there was no murder, advancement in the case, or puzzle being solved, the movie became quite slow, and when you almost would think it was going to halt, it would pick up again. It never really allowed much anticipation to build up until near the end. It was not a terribly long movie, just under two hours, but at times it felt like it had been on for quite a while.
And, although I admit this may be trivial, it lacked physical altercations. Poe did not engage in any fights, which in a film like this is generally expected, despite whether or not it fit his character perfectly. Drawing reference to the Sherlock Holmes movies again, Holmes’ character does this occasionally and it makes for a more exciting movie. Even though Holmes is not often seen fighting in Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, a little bit of action on his part was still realistic, and the same should have been done with Poe.
So if you have a yearning for a film that is churning with excitement and with gore,watch “The Raven,” I give it four-only this and nothing more.
Kenny Ayres is a third-year student majoring in communication studies with a journalism minor. He can be reached at KA739433@wcupa.edu.