Directed by James McTeigue, "The Raven" is a tale of the last days of Edgar Allan Poe in which grisly murders, inspired by the troubled writer, are taking place in a dreary Baltimore.
Have you ever contemplated the final days of the troubled, prolific writer Edgar Allan Poe? Those days are exactly what Intrepid Pictures' film "The Raven" brings to the screen. This "fictionalized account of the last days of Edgar Allan Poe's life" was released on April 27 and stars John Cusack as Poe.
It was the combination of the two that drew me to opening day at the theater. Poe is one of my favorite authors, and Cusack is one of my favorite actors. This mystery/thriller brings the two together quite nicely.
The MPAA Rating for "The Raven" is R "for bloody violence and grisly images," all emanating from the mind and through the pen of Poe. After the first scene involving bloody violence against humans and grisly images of death, a connection is made to Poe by Inspector Fields (Luke Evans).
"Your imagination is the inspiration of horrendous crime," Inspector Fields says to Poe.
It is the fall of 1849 in the City of Baltimore where horrendous crimes, inspired by the works of Edgar Allan Poe, are being committed. Baltimore is as dark as the mind of Poe, with the only color being that of crimson, masquerade costumes, and the white skin and blue eyes of Poe's love interest Emily Hamilton (Alice Eve).
Serbia and Hungary provide the perfect settings for the film. Grim, 19th century-looking locales match the gloominess of Poe and provide excellent stages for the wretched deaths that ensue.
In addition to being a mystery and thriller, it is a period piece. Attention was given to every detail from the costumes to the furniture to the way in which firefighters respond to a fire. Moviegoers will find themselves transported to the mid-1800s, but keep in mind it is a bleak Baltimore where ravens and a ravenous murderer reside.
A dark cloud of melancholy has hung over Poe since the death of his wife, his true love. But, Emily has broken through that cloud and rained a shower of light and brought a glimmer of happiness onto Poe. Will Poe's dismal existence end, even briefly? Will Emily be with the man she loves? Or, will a murderous madman end them both?
I recommend seeing "The Raven" to find out the answers to these questions and more, many more. As mentioned earlier, it is the combination of Poe's stories and Cusack's presence on the screen that cause me to give the movie two thumbs up. In addition, the settings and costumes perfectly fit.
Moreover, with the exceptions of John Cusack, Brendan Gleeson (who plays Captain Hamilton, Emily's father), and Brendan Coyle (who plays tavern owner Reagan in "The Raven" and John Bates in "Downton Abby"), I was unfamiliar with the cast of "The Raven". However, many did an excellent job and two stand out. Alice Eve, as Emily, really brought life to the movie and she did an admirable job. It was, however, the face of Luke Evans that I couldn't take my eyes off of. It is one of those interesting faces, meant for a cowboy movie. Even though Evans has an extensive filmography, I didn't recognize him. I do recommend, though, that a script for a cowboy and western movie be given to Evans as soon as possible with him playing the lead.
Reviews by others have been mixed. A Baltimore Sun movie critic gave "The Raven" an "Eh." Phillips wrote that it is a "strangely dull new film" and "It's like a grisly one-person interactive book club focused on one man's literary output."
It is the focus on "one man's literary output" that drew this Poe fan to the theater. And, I believe, "The Raven" can serve to prompt those who have not read the works of Poe to do so. Consider this scene from the film.
Edgar Allan Poe
It came as no surprise that, at one point in the movie, the alcoholic Poe would find himself in a tavern. With a drink at stake, confident that one among the assembled group would be able to complete the phrase, Poe said, "Quoth the Raven..." It was a Frenchman who spoke up and said, "Nevermore."
An American writer was in the midst of his countrymen; yet, it was a foreigner who knew the works of Poe. According to a biography, "Edgar Allan Poe's tales of mystery and horror initiated the modern detective story, and the atmosphere in his tales of horror is unrivaled in American fiction."
It took time for Americans to recognize the importance of his work and for Poe to become one of the highly regarded writers of American literature. In my opinion, there is currently a recognition of Poe's place in American literature, but the actual reading of his stories is waning. This film may serve to reignite readership of the works produced by a troubled American genius. For some viewers, an "Eh" at the theater may eventually turn into a "Ahh!" at home after reading stories whose origins are from the macabre mind of Poe.