Movie Review: STLCC FV Forum Student Newspaper
The Raven brings Edgar Allen Poe’s dark gothic catacomb of imagination to the big screen and puts a new twist on the last few days of Poe’s life. The character of Edgar Allen Poe, played by John Cusack, is loosely based on real-life events surrounding the penniless poet who helped father a gruesome genre of horror in the 1800s. Poe’s death has been debated since he took his last breath at the age of 40 on October 7, 1849. He died under mysterious circumstances that have never been explained.
A black raven, one of Poe’s calling cards, clings to a branch overlooking a man sitting on a park bench. Suddenly a woman’s chilling scream sends the film to it’s a murderous start. The viewers quickly get a glimpse of an eccentric, troubled, and often drunken literary critic (Poe) who bounces from temperamental to soulfully tortured.
Poe’s love interest is the beautiful Emily Hamilton (Alice Eve). Her father (Brendan Gleeson), is determined to protect her from Poe. The lovers secretly find happiness in each other’s arms and are about to live happily ever after, until Emily gets kidnapped by a dark figure that seemingly sprang to life from Poe’s ink pot and quill.
Poe finds himself trapped inside his own nightmarish macabre story. Dead bodies continue to turn up under the same deadly circumstances that Poe’s characters met their demise. Searching for clues with Detective Fields (Luke Evans), Poe must identify the killer before Emily becomes another one the author’s tragic endings. Poe unmasks the murderer and makes the ultimate sacrifice to save her.
The visual feel of the film is dramatic and authentic feeling with Poe’s corked liquor bottles and rich period-inspired costumes. The often gory and bloody crime scenes are reproduced straight out of Poe’s classics, such as “The Pit and the Pendulum” with the recognizable large heavy pendulum swinging back and forth. Just as in Poe’s writing, suspense agonizingly escalates the terror of each swing until the rounded blade suddenly stops dead with a sickening thud against the wooden table beneath the victim.
Poe fans will not be disappointed by the rhythmic and lyrical lines encompassing Poe’s trademark style, which easily spill from Cusack’s lips. The dark poetic lines often mix with lighter humanistic ones which convey a touch of humor sprinkled throughout. This mix keeps the dreadful near-death and bloody corpse viewing sequences from engulfing the film. Of course, that element could be a plus or minus for the movie-goer, depending on their Poe-like expectations.