The modern horror genre has much for which they can thank Edgar Allan Poe. His stories and poems of the mysterious and macabre have inspired more than a few creators of the horror we enjoy today. While his literary works have lived on, his life could be viewed as a tragedy. He was an alcoholic that died broke and delirious in Baltimore, Maryland and the mysterious nature of his death could very well have been written as one of his dark tales.
Starring John Cusack as the troubled author, The Raven latches onto the idea of Poe’s last days mirroring his writings. Unfortunately, it shoehorns the concept into a traditional murder mystery with gore soaked trappings. A serial killer in Baltimore has adopted the writings of Poe as his calling card and Edgar gets drawn into a macabre game of cat and mouse as he has to race against time to save a woman he loves. Effectively the film plays out like a 19th century version of Seven mixed with Saw, except it’s horribly tedious.
To its credit the film does start out rather strong. Poe belligerent and drunk gets tossed from a bar only to pass out in an alley, at the very same time a murder is being played out that draws its inspiration from Poe’s works. Because of the circumstances surrounding the murder, Poe is obviously a suspect and because he passed out he cannot prove his innocence. The film toys with this idea for a bit longer but ultimately, like the rest of the film, it is just wasted potential.
Speaking of wasted potential, director James McTeigue may very well be the definition of it as this point. The fact that McTeigue was the helmsman for this shipwreck of a film makes it all the worse. The filmmaker had such a positive upside from his stellar debut, V for Vendetta, and his work with the Wachowski’s on The Matrix trilogy. But the Raven has none of the intellectual or stylistic flourishes that viewers saw in his past work. It is a massive shame to see what his talent has become.
Much like Poe’s life was a tragedy, The Raven is a tragedy of filmmaking. It wastes a fun performance by Cusack, the film’s lone bright spot, and somehow makes murder and mystery out to be components in the cure to insomnia. Poe deserves better but even more so, the viewer deserves better. Filmgoers’ time and money would be better spent reading some of Poe’s work instead of seeing this sorry excuse for a “historical” thriller.
1 / 5