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The Raven

The Raven

Released 9 March 2012
Director James McTeigue

John Cusack, Luke Evans, Alice Eve, Brendan Gleeson, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Jimmy Yuill, Kevin R. McNally

Hannah Shakespeare, Ben Livingston

Marc D. Evans, Trevor Macy, Aaron Ryder
Origin United States, Hungary, Spain
Running Time 111 minutes
Genre Thriller
Rating 16

Caw blimey!

There’s an odd trend in the ascendant where historical biographies are mashed together with incongruous horror elements. Soon we’ll have to contend with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter but for now it’s time to spice up the image of Edgar Allen Poe in The Raven. The film takes place in the last five days of the author’s life, culminating in his mysterious death in Baltimore; Poe was found delirious on the streets, wearing clothes that were not his own and repeating the name “Reynolds.” It’s a scenario ripe for flights of fancy. Screenwriters Ben Livingstone and Hannah Shakespeare take this mystery and add in a little twentieth century cultural paranoia; inventing a serial killer inspired by a work of fiction.

The film supposes that shortly before Poe died (played here by John Cusack), the Baltimore police contacted him about a series of murders all seemingly based on his stories of the macabre. Detective Emmett Fields (Luke Evans) brings Poe on board to help with their investigations, only for the crimes to escalate into a game of cat and mouse between the author and an unhinged fan. This culminates in the abduction of Poe’s beloved Emily (Alice Eve) and her unwilling participation in a re-enactment of The Premature Burial.

And it’s all good, silly fun. The script transforms Poe into an charismatic drunk - a nineteenth century Hunter S. Thompson. Cusack rants and raves, turning in a performance that is utterly ridiculous but actually entertaining to watch. It’s a mixture of crazy, wide-eyed bellowing and resigned self-pity that matches the confused tone of the film as a whole, which veers between cute literary jokes and full-blooded gore in the swing of a pendulum. Director James McTeigue takes the helm and visually, The Raven has a lot in common with his much admired adaptation of V for Vendetta. It has that film’s overall look of stylised Victoriana with a healthy dose of blood and guts thrown in for good measure.

The Raven isn’t great by any stretch of the imagination but it doesn’t outstay its welcome, has a nice supporting cast and as a piece of silly, gory fun it delivers.

- Linda O’Brien