THE RAVEN (2012) Review

Directed by: James McTeigue
Starring: John Cusack, Luke Evans, Alice Eve

Edgar Allen Poe’s writings have been adapted for the screen many times and even THE RAVEN has at least a couple of movies to its name. There have been straight up adaptations as well as movies which have taken titles from Poe’s work but otherwise have not been related to his stories at all. 1934’s THE BLACK CAT is a perfect example of this, having taken the title of one of Poe’s more popular short stories and advertised his name on its adverts but otherwise having absolutely nothing to do with the original story. This latest incarnation of THE RAVEN however is something entirely new. It is not an adaptation at all but rather a fictional account of Poe’s final days.

A murder has taken place and the murderer has escaped. The only problem however is that the room has been locked from the inside and the only other means of escape – the window – has been nailed shut also from the inside. So how did the killer escape? One particularly bright detective (Evans) discovers a hidden switch embedded into the window pane and it immediately reminds him of a story he has read. This story was written by the one and only Edgar Allen Poe (Cusack), so of course he is taken in and questioned. Detective Fields is satisfied with Poe’s claims of innocence, but soon another murder victim is discovered, and this time the manner of death is once again consistent with another of Poe’s stories. Poe himself is brought in to offer some insight into the murders and soon realizes that the killer has been trying to get his attention. And they certainly get his attention when the love of Poe’s life Emily (Eve) is suddenly kidnapped. Poe and Fields must uncover the clues to try and find the murderer before Emily becomes the next victim.

Poe’s writings would seem prefect for horror film adaptations; they are very visual, very interesting and very macabre. In the case of THE RAVEN though, it really isn’t a horror movie at all. It’s more of a whodunit/murder-mystery/detective drama. There are of course plenty of horror elements evident though, and some nice gruesome scenes (in particular the ‘pit and the pendulum’ death scene). But most of the movie is spent following Poe and Fields as they frantically scour crime scenes for clues which inevitably lead to more clues, and all the while the clock is ticking. Some of the clues are exceedingly vague and abstract and it makes you wonder how Poe has managed to somehow transform from writer extraordinaire to super-detective.

As a murder-mystery, clue-hunting detective film, THE RAVEN doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. It’s all pretty standard fare really. It does a pretty good job in the writing department, with the story flowing along nicely as each clue leads to the next. Unfortunately I found the acting a little lacklustre, especially Cusack’s which was quite disappointing. Apart from that THE RAVEN does have a few nice touches, it makes clever use of the Poe inspired death scenes and is an interesting interpretation of the famous writer’s last days. Worth checking out if you’re a Poe fan, or a fan of these kind of mystery movies in general.

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