Movie Reviews

'The Raven': What a bore

By Travis WongMovies - 26 April 2012 12:00 PM

'The Raven': What a bore

Tell me what how thy movie is on the Night's Plutonian shore! / Quoth the Raven "What a bore."

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Rating: 2 stars out of 5

John Cusack hams it up in this fictionalised retelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s last days. Cusack plays Poe, who is depicted as a washed out writer unable to pay for his drinks, while the father of his lover Emily Hamilton (Alice Eve) finds him wholly unsuited to his daughter.

Things take a turn for the worse when a serial killer goes on a murder spree, using scenes from Poe’s stories as an inspiration. The lead investigator for the murder, Fields (Luke Cage), ropes in Poe to assist. Emily is subsequently kidnapped and the two have to apprehend the criminal before he kills Emily.

Writers Ben Livingston and Hannah Shakespeare have also mined events from Poe’s stories as well as his life, particularly his mysterious last days, to prop up the film.

‘V for Vendetta’ director James McTeigue does a fair job with the film, though ‘The Raven’ certainly lacks the visual flourishes that the earlier film possessed. McTeigue lets Cusack have the floor, and his often wild rants occasionally remind one of Nicolas Cage’s acting repertoire.

John Cusack bears a striking resemblance to one Nicholas Cage in this movie. No wonder it tanked.

The Poe Cusack plays in the movie is no moody writer, but a sharp wit always eager to prove his accomplishments. Occasionally, he comes across as smart alecky, and his words lack the genius of Poe’s writing.

Horror fans should take note that there’s certainly plenty of blood. When the killer recreates Poe’s story ‘The Pit and the Pendulum’, McTeigue shows the blade slicing into the body of one of Poe’s rivals, gouging deeper with each blow. Later on, the killer tears out the throat of a policeman with a knife.

See also: 'The Cabin in the Woods': A horror game changer

The hunt for the killer is somewhat deflated by the emphasis on the Inspector Fields’ character. Evans has average acting ability, but constantly just looks harassed. McTeigue spends too much time on him, taking us away from Poe’s own hunt for the killer.

The serial killer antics are also clichéd, with far too many last minute escapes. Even the others helping Poe and Fields with the investigation are just used as red herrings, or fodder for the resourceful killer. It makes for a very crowded movie, frantic, but with very little payoff.

Anchored by Cusack’s performance, ‘The Raven’ is a fairly interesting horror movie that doesn’t try to be too overly intellectual. It comes across more of a serial killer movie with inspiration from Poe, rather than anything entirely new or interesting. The treatment of Poe’s stories is mostly surfacial, without truly plumbing into the depths of his psyche. 

Poe devotees will probably thumb their noses at this, and how shallowly it treats the material of the author. It never once captures the horror and pathos, nor the lyrical lines, of Poe himself. While undoubtedly respectful of the author, it is too conventional in its approach to be truly groundbreaking. Poe fans are likely to leave the theatre, saying “Nevermore”. 

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The Raven