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The Raven follows the last days of Edgar Allen Poe (John Cusack) as he chases down a serial killer who has a penchant for imitating the gruesome acts carried out in Poe’s stories.
There is no doubt that Edgar Allen Poe has influenced many Gothic horror writers over the years, and his death has always been surrounded in mystery. This new film speculates on the cause of Poe’s death, and takes liberties with the author’s life. This, in itself, is not necessarily a bad thing, but the execution of this story leaves a lot lacking.
John Cusack stars as Poe and plays the character as the drunk that he was believed to be at the end of his life. Poe is in love with Emily (Alice Eve) whose father (Brendan Gleeson) does not approve of Poe or his daughter spending time with him. Emily is then kidnapped by a serial killer who demands that Poe solve his mystery in order to save her life. This should have been a wonderfully dark and twisted Gothic horror story, but instead the story takes a dark turn… And not in a good way.
Cusack has not made good movie choices in recent years – except perhaps Hot Tub Time Machine – and The Raven was one of these choices. The character is over the top and melodramatic, but not in an appropriate way. There are times when Cusack hams it up so much on screen that his performance changes from the dramatic to comedic and it is hard for the audience to hold in their giggles.
The rest of the cast fare no better. Alice Eve is simpering and frivolous as Emily and Brendan Gleeson appears to be struggling with the Maryland accent as he attempts to make good on the script. Luke Evans is so bland as Detective Fields that he is almost instantly forgotten when he disappears from screen.
V For Vendetta director James McTeigue has managed to dish up a bland film that is almost painful to watch. The pacing is off, meaning that the film crawls through the middle act and there is absolutely no suspense or intrigue built up about who the murderer could be. By the time this is revealed, the audience no longer cares about motivations for murder – which are paper-thin at best – and just wants the torment to end. The film could easily have taken inspiration from From Hell, but instead of the streets and sets looksing rich and dark, they just appear dank and suffocating.
The script – ironically co written by someone named Shakespeare – is bordering on ludicrous. There are many different ways that the story could have gone (Poe’s death is mystery enough), but turning Poe into a detective is as silly as turning Sherlock Holmes into a full-blown action hero (I am looking at you, Guy Ritchie).
In all, The Raven is a silly and miserable experience. The film crawls through its 111 minute running time without spectacle or intrigue. Cuasck is over the top and hammy, and his supporting cast are bland and forgettable. Nevermore? That just about sums it up. Rating : 1/5
Review by Brogen Hayes