The Raven is a woefully misdirected take on Edgar Allan Poe
Starring John Cusack, Luke Evans, and Alice Eve. Rated 18A.
After the exhilarating horror high of The Cabin in the Woods, fans of scary movies should brace themselves for a major letdown with The Raven. It’s a woefully misdirected take on the Edgar Allan Poe legend that’s bound to have crazy old Eddie rolling in his grave.
John Cusack is unconvincing throughout as the detective-fiction pioneer, who we first meet when he’s incoherent and near death, sitting on a cold Baltimore park bench. Director James McTeigue then takes us back to reveal how Poe ended up in that situation but forgets to make the trip worthwhile.
There’s a killer on the loose who is basing his crimes on such famed Poe tales as “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” and “The Pit and the Pendulum”. The killings, naturally, shed suspicion on Poe, as if he didn’t have enough problems already—like being a raving, alcoholic nutcase of a writer who can barely get published.
Poe’s loose screws don’t diminish his luck with the ladies, apparently, as—unlike in real life, where he married his 13-year-old cousin—he’s secretly engaged to a beautiful heiress (Alice Eve). But before they can get hitched against the wishes of her (literally) Poe-bashing father (Brendan Gleeson), she gets kidnapped during a “Masque of the Red Death”–type ball and buried alive. Much desperate scratching at wooden boards ensues while Poe works alongside a baffled police detective (Luke Evans) to solve the clues to her whereabouts left on various corpses.
As a horror fan, I was expecting a little more from a movie inspired by the real-life mystery surrounding the death of the world’s original nightmare maker. A modicum of reverence would have been nice, for starters. Poe was the writer who most inspired H. P. Lovecraft, for fright’s sake. But the makers of The Raven instead banged out a crudely written and wholly uninspired thriller that’s unlikely to win anyone over to the horror master’s oeuvre.