The Raven Directed by: James McTeigue Cast: John Cusack, Alice Eve, Luke Evans, Brendan Gleeson Running Time: 1 hr 51 mins Rating: R Release Date: April 27, 2012
PLOT: After his writing inspires the tactics of a madman, author Edgar Allan Poe (Cusack) is hired by a police officer (Evans) to catch the meticulous killer.
WHO'S IT FOR? This horror movie's got gore, and then on top of that some references to Poe. The happiest viewers will be those who came for the former, as opposed to those interested in experiencing the works of the latter. This movie is for Saw fans, but also aims to let down people who read books at the same time.
EXPECTATIONS: Was the usage of Poe going to provide a good horror story? How much of this movie was actually going to reference Poe's famous title poem? How much would this movie make me miss the biopic "Poe" that Sylvester Stallone is still putting off?
John Cusack as Edgar Allan Poe: With pale skin and a thin physique, this version of Poe already looks ghostly. Cusack is an OK choice for the writer, but he simply doesn't provide a performance that makes the man (or his silly movie) particularly special. Cusack does his best work here with Poe's dialogue, which comes at a quick speed, and with wit. Score: 4
Luke Evans as Detective Fields: With a rock face and a scowl, Fields is another stony policeman following typical cop character procedure. He's the muscles to Poe's brains, but offers nothing more than brawn to this story of mystery. Evans makes him a walking yawn of an unsurprising, uninteresting character. Score: 3
Alice Eve as Emily Hamilton: She tries to leave an impression on The Raven's viewers, but she admittedly doesn't have much to work with (that's before she's literally put in a box). Emily is meant to be a target of desire from Poe, much to the distress of on-screen daddy Brendan Gleeson. Halfway through the movie, she gets put into aforementioned box, and simply has to work some "scream queen" bones while remaining Poe's ultimate objective. Score: 3
TALKING: While this movie is bound to be forgotten by most, it does feature some amusing dialogue, usually delivered by this snarky version of Poe. The Raven especially earns some laughs with lines like, "If I’d have known my work would have such a morbid effect on people, I would’ve devoted more time to eroticism." Score: 6
SIGHTS: With filming done in Serbia and Hungary, The Raven looks overly glum, as fog takes the place of any ray of sunlight a la Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Like other adaptations with underwhelming attitudes, (looking at you, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), The Raven unleashes the 'tude during a crazy credit sequence. Unfortunately, it's the very last thing the movie has to say. Score: 5
SOUNDS: The Raven has a strange score that makes well-known the movie's desire to be popcorn-y than actually fitting to a historical period. Electric guitars chug along with strings in a concoction more fitting to a generic horror flick than a story set in 1848. Score: 4
BEST SCENE: I laughed most at Cusack's eroticism line. That's the most involved I was with the entire movie.
ENDING: This is the type of simple ending that feels so random that it must have been tacked on after test screenings. While it is meant to offer closure, it only offers a big sigh from such a shrug-worthy movie.
QUESTIONS: Yes, but I was able to get some of them answered when I interviewed John Cusack.
REWATCHABILITY: There's nothing in The Raven that keeps it particularly compelling even in the first viewing. A second viewing would probably be the worst form of torturous boredom.
There are ideas aflutter in The Raven. Ruminations about the power of criticism, the obsessiveness of fanboys (think of the killer as a blog commenter), the positives and negatives of having a pet raccoon, etc. But in the end, The Raven turns out to be a tragically serious version of something like the inevitably stupid Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
The literary discussion that The Raven's inner Poe dork wants to have with its audience most of all gets lost in the derivative story, one that takes a real literary figure on a bender through the torture gore of Saw and the clue-chasing of the recent Sherlock Holmes movies. The Raven's desire, simply by its existence, is for audiences to see the connection between modern and classic horror and then maybe inspire some reading. But the flavorless pulp of this murder mystery, in which a man tries to rescue his girlfriend from a murderous obsessive with bursts of ninja athleticism, is undoubtedly going to be shinier to viewers who come simply expecting ol' timey nameless blood and guts.
FINAL SCORE: 4/10