Reviewed by: Ellen Blalock
|Featuring:||John Cusack … Edgar Allan Poe
Luke Evans … Detective Fields
Alice Eve … Emily Hamilton
Brendan Gleeson … Captain Hamilton
|Director:||James McTeigue—“The Matrix,” “V for Vendetta”|
“The only one who can stop a serial killer is the one who inspired him.”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”
“Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary”… how well I remember those beginning lines of a very scary and long poem written by Edgar Allan Poe. Having read everything written by Poe, I looked forward to a movie filled with more mystery and intrigue offerings from one of my favorite authors.
“The Raven” starts out with Edgar Allan (John Cusack, “2012,” “Hot Tub Time Machine”) alone on a park bench. We then go back a short time earlier where this fictionalized script, written by Ben Livingston and Hannah Shakespeare (“Loverboy”), take us on a “what might have happened” depiction of murder and mayhem in 19th century Baltimore, due in part to Poe’s gothic stories.
The story begins with, and includes, several murders that start to take on the aspect of some of Poe’s written works. Inspector Fields (Luke Evans, “Clash of the Titans,” “Immortals”) investigates the first horrendous murder of a woman and child, involving one of the bodies being stuffed up a chimney, as well as a second one of a man sawn in half by a pendulum. During the investigations, he figures out similarities, and believes there is a connection between the murders and Poe’s stories. Edgar Allan is currently working for the local newspaper as a writer and is brought into the investigation. Thus, between the two of them, they start trying to unravel clues and discover the identity of the killer. Meanwhile, Poe’s romantic interest, Emily Hamilton (Alice Eve, “She’s Out of My League,” “Sex and the City 2”), becomes a victim of the killer who kidnaps and buries her alive in a wooden box beneath the floor. Now Poe is desperate to find the killer and save Emily in the process. He is so desperate that he comes up with a unique plan to exchange his life for hers.
This movie seems to have all of the right elements to make it work. The storyline is somewhat unique, the actors fare well, and the 1800’s movie sets are impeccable. There are parts of Poe’s poems and stories quoted, which add to the dark ambiance of the scenes. Poe acknowledges God, angels, demons and even asks the Lord, at one point, to “help my poor soul.”
That being said, there are things that are bothersome. The characterization of Poe seems a little scattered. One moment he is drinking and whining, the next he is throwing fits and trying to explain his “moodiness” to Inspector Fields by giving an account of his first wife’s agonizing death by tuberculosis. This doesn’t make for a very good “hero” type to save Emily.
The darkness of the movie is slightly depressing, in itself. The music in the background is subdued and unhelpful to the scenes.
There is a lot of time spent on the “bloodiness and gore” associated with the killings. It seems in our day and age, the more grisly a crime can be portrayed, the better filmmakers like it. There are close-ups of wounds with lots of blood, especially the pendulum scene which takes an excruciatingly long amount of time to end. One body found entombed in a brick wall has the mouth sewn shut. We are then treated to a zoom in on the sutures being clipped from the lips and a bloody watch sliding out of the mouth. Emily has bloody fingers from trying to scratch her way out of her wooden box. One policeman has his throat cut and gushes blood for what seems an eternity. Why are we continually dished this drivel?
Alcohol is in abundance—a bar scene, bottles and glasses during several scenes. Poe is depicted as an addicted alcoholic.
The only sexual scene is between Edgar Allan and Emily showing her blouse being untied and some cleavage viewed. They are shown kissing and starting to incline into a prone position which, we presume, leads to the inevitable. At least there is no erotic detail to endure.
There is profanity, although not excessive. The F-word is used, s**t, bi**h, bast**d, hell, d**n a few times. The Lord’s name is used in vain, God-d**n, God, and Jesus being thrown around casually. This is definitely not a movie for children or young teens.
As I look forward to, and attend, movies like these, I wonder about the intent and purposes they have. Mystery movie fans, such as myself, are looking to be entertained in the same fashion as we once were in the beginning of our “experience” with intense storylines. But, as new movies are written and created, we have to endure a menagerie of gore, bad language, sex, and excessive alcohol use. Trying to weed through the garbage to get to the story seems hardly worth it, at times. The Bible warns us to:
“Abstain from all appearance of evil” —1 Thessalonians 5:22.
It’s hard to do so, when it is continually placed before us. If you can close your eyes at the bad parts, go see this film. As mentioned, it has an interesting storyline. It will also make you think more deeply about Poe himself and what a lot of his life must have been like.
Violence: Extreme / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Mild
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.