THE RAVEN
Author: Andi Claycomb
April 27, 2012

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SYNOPSIS: 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.

Let’s face it, Edgar Allan Poe was quite an eccentric fellow. So a movie based on murders from his murderous, twisted tales needs to meet certain expectations. Director James McTeigue’s (V for Vendetta) The Raven certainly passed muster.

Poe (John Cusack) finds himself suffering from writer’s block and thus struggling to survive financially. When a series of murders occur, Detective Emmett Fields (Luke Evans) recognizes them as the real life versions of Poe’s fictional crimes. In the beginning, Poe is nothing more than a reluctant tag-along, but when his beloved Emily Hamilton (Alice Eve) is abducted by the assailant, Poe becomes an active participant in the investigation. The murder manages to play cat-and-mouse with the two men while still remaining unseen.

Fans of Poe’s works will enjoy ticking off the murders, but may feel a bit deprived of the chance to really let them sink in as many of the murders are glazed over in the effort of trying to find the next clue. Only “The Pit and the Pendulum” murder leaves the sensitive crowd squeamishly turning away. In that respect, true horror movie aficionados will be left bored. This is a movie that isn’t a comedy, though the drunken, classless Poe gave the audience some laughs. It’s not quite a horror movie either, though some of the scenes were fairly gruesome. And it’s not a typical serial killer film because it is missing the truly engaging plot twists. The Raven is undefined and I’m good with that.

There has been mumbling about John Cusak as Poe. Cusak does an excellent job of making Poe a bit offensive (albeit a bit campy) in the beginning of the flick, but by the end, the audience is rooting for him. Alice Eve and Luke Evans hold their own, each engaging the audience and adding to the movie. Evans remains steadfast throughout the twists and turns of the plot, while Eve is perfectly lovely, as a proper lady should be. The sets and costumes are beautiful and fit the 19th century Baltimore. The masquerade ball and theatre being the true highlights of scenes and sets. As a fan of Poe’s works, I enjoyed the clever nods to the writer’s life, such as his mention of his attendance (and suspension) from West Point and his owning a pet raccoon (the modern theory is that Poe died from rabies). And while his writing may not have completely and truly jumped from the pages of his stories onto the big screen, it was enjoyable to see a nod to such a literary genius. So ignore the critics, read a story or two of Poe’s, and then check out the flick. - Andi Claycomb

GRADE: B

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