A seemingly incredible concept for a feature film falls flat with the “V for Vendetta” director James McTeigue’s 2012 thriller “The Raven.”
The film brings alive some of the fantastical short stories of Edgar Allan Poe, played by John Cusack. A crazed serial killer has taken up Poe’s works of short fiction and used them as inspiration for his murders.
Once it becomes clear that the madman is patterning his murders after Poe’s writings, Baltimore’s Detective Fields, played by Luke Evans, enlists the help of Poe himself to help solve the murders.
At first Poe is skeptical, but after the love of his life Emily Hamilton, played by Alice Eve, is kidnapped by the murderer, Poe joins the investigation in order to save her. After murdering in the style of several of Poe’s stories, the murder begins to get creative with his murders. Poe is forced to write stories around these murders in order to save Emily.
Poe is depicted as a bullheaded drunk. His self-confidence is almost annoying, at times. The audience never truly forgets that this character is just John Cusack in disguise. The movie tells the story of Poe’s final days on earth. The beginning of the movie explains that the last few days of Poe’s life are shrouded in mystery; he is found drunk on a park bench and taken into a hospital to die. Because of this, much of the film is given away early.
What follows is a number of gory and gruesome scenes. The murder focuses on Poe’s short stories “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” “The Pit and the Pendulum,” “The Masque of the Red Death,” “The Cask of Amontillado” and “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Although it is unclear how exactly the murder puts together all of the details from these short stories (such as where he gets the Orangutan and where it goes after the murder), how the scenes are put together are generally entertaining. Though the twists and turns are generally unsurprising, the way these short stories are brought to life in this film keeps the audience interested until the end.
The movie fails in truly establishing its characters. Even Poe seems devastatingly two-dimensional. The relationship between Poe and Emily is flimsy. They are together for perhaps three scenes before she is kidnapped, where she remains until the last few scenes of the movie. Poe and Fields seem to genuinely dislike one another for no apparent reason, but their dislike dissipates (once again, for no apparent reason) as they work together to find the killer.
Ultimately, the movie is a failed decent idea. It would be difficult to make a feature-length film based one of Poe’s brilliant short stories simply because the source material is so limited, but this film featured an interesting idea to link these short stories together; however, the link is weak. Instead of linking two or three of Poe’s stories together, the film tries to take on too many stories, and many of them are probably unfamiliar to the average viewer.
The title seems to have little to do with the actual story at all. In the film, Poe quotes from “The Raven” and “Annabel Lee,” but his short stories take center stage.
“The Raven” is available on Netflix.