The Raven (2012)
The Raven is a fictional account concerning the last days in the life of Edgar Allan Poe. On October, 7th, 1849, he was found on a park bench in Baltimore, close to death. He died a short time later. This film attempts to explain the events leading to his demise. A psychopath is stalking Baltimore, killing innocent victims and using Poe’s stories and prose as a guideline. Life imitating art. Poe is called upon by the Baltimore police to help unravel a series of clues and riddles left by the perpetrator. The killer kidnaps Poe’s love interest, Emily Hamilton, and holds her hostage – actually, he buries her alive, in a coffin – and dares Poe to unravel the mysteries he has laid out and find her.
The Pendulum scene is quite jarring as I myself began to suck in my gut as I watched every swipe of the blood splattering blade. The film portrays a thick gothic atmosphere as horse-drawn coaches race through the lamp-lit, cobblestone streets of old Baltimore, in attempts to beat the killer before the next death occurs. There are rich sets and wonderful costume portraying this period piece without being garish. John Cusack does a good job portraying the dark and egotistical drunkard, Poe, but the script never seems to take this aspect far enough. Alice Eve, as Emily, shows herself to be a solid actress, refined, and playing her part with an understated charm. All the acting is solid in this film, with equally good parts by Luke Evans, as Detective Fields and Sam Hazeldine, as Ivan. So, why isn’t this a better film?
One drawback is that much of the murders are not seen on film, which I think would have had more impact. Aside from the pendulum scene, in most cases we get to see the dead bodies but not the actual murders themselves. As far as mysteries go, this film leaves no room for the viewer to use their mind and intellect to solve the clues for themselves. Much like Poe’s stories, ‘The Raven’ must have a tragic ending. The impact of the ‘trade-off’ at the end could have been an emotional pinnacle for the film but the director failed to capitalize on it and missed a great opportunity. However, I think the biggest problem with this film is – it reminds one of just how good E.A. Poe’s stories were and makes you wish you were entrenched in one of those stories rather than this film. It is a watchable film for the Poe fan despite falling short in so many areas, but more likely for novelty reason and visual appeal rather than story.