Review of The Raven

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A fictionalized account of the last days of Edgar Allan Poe's life, in which the poet and author pursues a serial killer whose murders mirror those in Poe's stories. When a mother and daughter are found brutally murdered in 19th century Baltimore, Detective Emmett Fields (Luke Evans) makes a startling discovery: the crime resembles a fictional murder described in gory detail in the local newspaper--part of a collection of stories penned by struggling writer and social pariah Edgar Allan Poe (played by John Cusack). But even as Poe is questioned by police, another grisly murder occurs, also inspired by a popular Poe story. Realizing a serial killer is on the loose using Poe's writings as the backdrop for his bloody rampage, Fields enlists the author's help in stopping the attacks. But when it appears someone close to Poe may become the murderer's next victim, the stakes become even higher and the inventor of the detective story calls on his own powers of deduction to try to solve the case before it's too late.

“It’s the beating of that hideous heart”… not something you will hear anyone say during a showing of “The Raven”, a DOA thriller from director James McTeigue (V For Vendetta”). The Hannah Shakespeare-Ben Livingston screenplay is less inspired by Edgar Allan Poe than it is on the countless forgettable police procedurals on CBS. You know the ones. One-dimensional characters, lots of talking, a villain who has nothing better to do than challenge the police to a “game”, a few limp action sequences, all topped off with a final reveal of the killer to a resounding chorus of…”eh”.

John Cusack takes the unenviable position of having to breathe life into Poe, who here is presented as nothing more than an arrogant, miserable drunk thrown into solving crimes in Baltimore when a serial killer begins using the author’s stories as inspiration. The stakes are upped when his girlfriend (Alice Eve) is kidnapped, leaving Poe and the young inspector (Luke Evans) in charge of the case to remember Poe’s stories in order to predict the killer’s next move. This takes them to a masquerade ball, theater, underground tunnel and a foggy forest.

The film earns points for atmosphere and production design, and of course blood (one character is even cut in half), but it fails the suspense test by thinking that characters standing around examining bodies, maps, ect, waiting for that next a-ha moment (oh, the name of the ship is the Fortunato) to move the plot along, eventually leading to nothing but another dead body. Cusack just looks bored and McTeigue is more interested in trying to stylize something like this for a modern day audience than stage a decent action scene. At the end of the day “The Raven” is just another mystery, given a fine gimmick in creating it around Poe’s stories, but made bland and forgettable by a careless-looking approach.