The other day, I picked up a copy of The Raven.
I like Edgar Allen Poe, especially his short horror stories. Not everyone knows that Edgar Allen Poe basically created the detective thriller genre. And this is what we have at the heart of The Raven… Poe himself involved in a detective thriller, with the killer using Poe’s stories as inspiration for the murders.
Here’s the blurb…The macabre and lurid tales of Edgar Allan Poe are vividly brought to life – and death – in this stylish, gothic thriller starring John Cusack as the infamous author. When a madman begins committing horrific murders inspired by Poe’s darkest works, a young Baltimore detective (Luke Evans) joins forces with Poe in a quest to get inside the killer’s mind in order to stop him from making every one of Poe’s brutal stories a blood chilling reality. A deadly game of cat and mouse ensues, which escalates when Poe’s love (Alice Eve) becomes the next target. Intrepid Pictures’ The Raven also stars Brendan Gleeson and Oliver Jackson-Cohen.
OK, here’s the deal… American poet Edgar Allen Poe is broke and down on his luck in Baltimore, in 1849.
Mayhem ensues… when a serial killer uses Poe’s tales as inspiration for his murders. The police enlist Poe’s help. Serial killer kidnaps Poe’s love and buries her alive, taunting Poe and the police with clues left on (or in) a series of murder victims.
My two cents… It’s basically a gothic version of ‘Law & Order.’ It’s ‘Saw’ meets ‘Sherlock Holmes!’
The movie looks great. The costumes, sets, props… everything is wonderful. Even Cusack as Poe (with a goatee instead of just the trademark Poe mustache) is sufficiently and wonderfully pale and fevered both at the same time. The acting is good too, in my opinion.
But the movie fails to grip me. I want Poe to grab me and never let me go until the last ghastly minute. And this movie doesn’t do it. The elements are all there but somehow it just falls short. And I am not even sure why.
The guys over at RottenTomatoes.com were also whelmed. 22% on the freshness scale but with 48% approval rating.
“The subject matter screams out for cleverness and depth, the sort of mind-bending twists and satisfying darkness that Poe himself would love. It finds them only in small doses.” (John Wenzel, Denver Post)
“Basically a well-researched but formulaic mystery centered on one of those nyah-nyah serial killers we’ve seen a thousand times.” (Rafer Guzman, Newsday)
“Director James McTeigue has no feel for humor or terror, making what could have been a witty pastiche into another cheesy slice-and-dice horror flick.” (Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune)
That seems to be the general tone of many of the reviews. “It could have been… should have been… so wonderful. But they blew it!”
The premise of The Raven, the cast, the production values, all had such great potential. This movie should have been great. It should have been riveting. It would have been a real tribute to Poe and his invention… the detective thriller. But it isn’t. And the sense of disappointment is tangible.
Bottom line… You’re better off curling up with a copy of The Complete Works of Edgar Allen Poe.
One Tell-Tale Thumb up.