When a madman begins committing horrific murders inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's works, a young Baltimore detective joins forces with Poe to stop him from making his stories a reality.
For fans of the writing of Edgar Allan Poe, THE RAVEN is probably gonna go only one of two ways. Its either gonna be seen as a shallow, exploitative piece that pisses on the truth of the great man, or its gonna be seen as some harmless Hollywood hokum that plays loose with a heroic historical figure for entertainments sake.
Me...I'm not sure where I stand at the moment. I think I'm on the side of finding the whole thing a little insulting to the mans legacy, but at the same time, I'm a sucker for a good Gothic mystery, and the concept of this one is a doozy.
No matter where you stand on this, you gotta admit its a delicious plot line. After all, Poe's death remains a mystery, and why shouldn't it be open to interpretation? After all, the great man loved a good horror mystery. On the other hand, when he wasn't writing literature-altering masterpieces of short fiction, he was one of the most scathing, vicious critics of the 18th century. He would most likely have torn this film apart from ass to armpit.
See how problematic this film is, (not least to review)?
For the open-minded, less clinical Poe fan, there is a lot of fun to be had in THE RAVEN. Its a solid, take on the classic serial-killer movie. The Poe angle may be unique, but otherwise, its influences are legion. Luckily for the most part, they're good ones. TENEBRAE, SEVEN. SHERLOCK HOLMES and FROM HELL are immediate, obvious starting points, closely followed up by the likes of SAW and KISS THE GIRLS. Not a bad group to be hanging with, and the fact that the whole show has the look and feel of a more modernised Hammer Horror picture certainly doesn't hurt, (most Poe fan's are probably Hammer aficionado's, after all). If approached in the right way, this could become a guilty favourite for many.
It may be while yet before we get a true portrayal of this dark genius in cinema, but THE RAVEN isn't trying to be a character study for a second, its just playing loose and fast with a much-loved icon of Horror, and fantasising about his last days on the planet. The rumours and theories surrounding the mans death will persist forever, and THE RAVEN is simply a more grandiose, less believable take than most out there. Although I admit.... I sorta wish it were the truth.
Its a blast for those who love his work to witness the killers modus-operandi of adapting Poe's gruesome tales to reality. What you imagine you'll get...you'll get. Murders inspired by THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM and THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH are standouts, but there's a lot of good gory, Poe inspired fun to be had here. There's also a constant stream of wonderful Quotes from our guy that cant help but raise a smile.
Of course, for all of the film fans out there who are unfamiliar with Poe's work, (sadly, they number many), this will sink or swim on its entertainment factor. On this level, I found it to be quite the ride. Its got a decent emotional core, (a mans desperate attempt to save his loved one, and perhaps his soul), and a strong cast, led by the ever-able John Cusack as Poe himself. At first, I found his performance a little grating, and overly comedic, (given the man being portrayed), but he soon settles into the role and becomes believable. If not as Poe, then as a fictional, exaggerated version of the man. He's well supported by Luke Evans as Detective Fields, who attacks the material with a conviction that elevates the suspense. The soundtrack is low-key, and only falters in the closing credits, (where the track playing feels completely out of place), and the direction by McTeigue, (V FOR VENDETTA), is unobtrusive and serves the plot well.
Visually, lovers of Old World Gothic, Hammer and AIP will have a field day. The 18ths Century is captured well, and its obvious the directors main order on set was, 'More fog!!! More Candles!!!'. It looks pretty cool, and often tha'st enough for the guys and gals out there who are drawn to the atmosphere it conveys.
THE RAVEN probably wont make a great deal of money. Its true fan base will be divided, and those who don't know Edgar Allan Poe from Penelope Pit-stop aren't likely to be seduced by its concept at all. I hope it finds its fan-base though. I may be divided on its merits, but I'm glad I saw it, and I'd happily watch it again. Now get to work on a serious look at the mans life, Hollywood. That's an order!
6.5 Absinthe Shots out of 10