Movie review: The Raven
Published: Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, May 1, 2012 00:05
“The Raven” brings Poe’s vivid imagination to life with grisly murders and dangerous mind games, but doesn’t offer any of the depth or excitement of his classic short stories.
After traveling around the East Coast, Edgar Allan Poe (John Cusack) returns to Baltimore as a washed-up drunk who believes his best years are already behind him. He’s broke, lives with a pet raccoon and is considered a joke by most of the city’s residents. The only bright spot in his life is his fiancée, Emma Hamilton (Alice Eve), whose father despises Poe. But when bodies start turning up in the city mirroring events in Poe’s tales, he is recruited by Detective Emmet Fields (Luke Evans) to get inside the mind of a serial killer and save the kidnapped Hamilton.
The murders themselves are inspired by Poe’s more famous stories—Hamilton is buried alive as in “The Premature Burial,” while one of Poe’s rivals is sliced in half by a pendulum as a reference to the “The Pit and the Pendulum.” The killer also leaves clues that allude to Poe’s lesser-known works, but they are barely explained and make the film difficult to follow.
For a film honoring one of the greatest horror writers of all time, “The Raven” lacks any sense of complexity or terror. Shots of fake-looking blood spurting toward the camera are reminiscent of a 3D “Final Destination” movie, and except for the swinging pendulum, the murders produce zero suspense.
The characters suffer from a lack of development—Cusack’s Poe is a loser, and not a particularly fun one to watch. Hamilton is little more than a pretty face, and her unlikely relationship with the self-destructive Poe only starts to develop toward the end of the film. The film’s standout actor is Evans, whose intensity would have made him a better choice for the lead role.
The film has some successful comedic moments, but most of the jokes fall flat. In trying to straddle the line between intelligent mystery and campy violence, “The Raven” loses any of the psychological thrills that made Poe’s stories legendary.