The Raven (2012)
Director: James McTeigue
John Cusack/Edgar Allan Poe
Luke Evans/Detective Fields
Brendan Gleeson /Captain Hamilton
Writer Edgar Allen Poe (Cusack) is a broke ass drunkard who’s about to see his pitiful existence get even worse. Ya see, a serial killer has started to slaughter folks, emulating the elaborate murders found in his stories. It’s up to Poe and a no frills cop (Evans) to nab the loon before more red-wet damage is done.
In real life Edgar Allen Poe was a poet, an author and a critic. He was one of the first to use the short story format and many claim that he invented the detective story sub-genre. And like so many other tortured artists; hombre loved the bottle and the bottle loved him. On October 7 1849 he was found near death in Baltimore, sitting on a park bench. The HOW as to his demise are to this day hazy (some have blamed the alcohol, others suspect it was murder, rabies was even tossed in there). And this is where THE RAVEN, the movie, kicks in. Taking Poe’s mysterious passing and tagging a fictional tale to its derriere to lead up to it. Now lots of Poe’s stories were made into films, especially in the 60's via low budget King Roger Corman: "The Pit and the Pendulum" (1961), "Tales of Terror" (1962) and The Masque of the Red Death" (1964) for example. And the famed author has appeared on TV, in short films and in movies before (like in Stuart Gordon’s badass Masters of Horror episode The Black Cat). But this is his fist big budget/big screen Hollywood adventure. How did that turn out?
Let me spit this off the bat; I know of Poe and his legacy but I can’t say I’ve ever read a story of his. I did catch glimpses here and there (the "Sleep, those little slices of death; Oh how I loathed them" quote in NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3 or Eric Draven dropping lines from The Raven in THE CROW) but I’m more of a Robert E Howard guy. So I had no personal investment in Poe the man or Poe the artist and how that related to this fictional rendition of Poe action man. If you’re going into this movie expecting a biopic, don’t. Although it did include some true to life elements about the Poe-Man; it was first and foremost a work of fiction, there to entertain. All I kept thinking while clocking this one was FROM HELL LIGHT by way of SAW and SEVEN! While the happenings were far from novel, THE RAVEN set its game up and let the sparks fly with class, hence making its familiar vibe gripping none the less. I so relished in the production designs here. The sets and the costumes were stunning, felt genuine for the most part and I believed in the world of the film. The able fog machine, Danny Ruhlmann’s morose photography, the Poe inspired symbolism and James McTeigue’s kinetic/retina stimulating shots also contributed to the ominous atmosphere of the picture. The many suspenseful chase scenes and the breath neck pace of the piece were esteemed by me as well! This one unraveled at a clipped face with rarely a dull moment in sight. Always a good attribute to have in my book!
Then we had the yummy gore kicking in! They didn’t shy away from the gruesome goods that’s for damn sure! The pendulum scene for example carved a smile on my face and McTeigue’s knack at fawning over the red grub with his camera (slow motion blood splashing =- sweet) added to the impact of the scenes. There was almost a poetry about the bloodshed, much like there was in Poe’s stories, not sure if that was the intent, but hey, worked for me! The cherry on top? The cast was Grade A. Although John Cusack’s Poe started off as a self-involved asshole that I wanted to back-hand stupid; but once the shit hit the shit, he became more likeable and got me on his side. Cusack went all out with the role, showcasing a colorful display that often made him more compelling than the character was on the page. Playing straight-man to Poe’s flamboyant tortured soul was Luke Evans as Detective Fields. The dude exuded a powerful presence and endearing charisma. He carried the film as much as Cusack did. I expect big things for the lad. This movie should put him firmly on the map!
On the flip side; the characters needed more layers/development that’s for sure. Thank Mitra that the movie's nature was action driven and that the talented actors elevated their roles beyond what was on the page. Alice Eve in particular had next to nothing to work with as the love interest and her chemistry with Cusack was next to nil. A shame, being that their courtship was the heart of the movie. If the romantic subplot would have been stronger, it would of made me care further about the grim turn of events. And was I alone in thinking that the whodunit was mishandled? If you’re gonna go that way, run with it, stimulate the audience, toy with them, or don’t do it at all. Felt half cocked. Finally I thought the whole spiel was about the psycho/psychette emulating Poe’s written kills, so when he/she abandoned that motif late in the game, I was a tad perplexed… then I realized that there are more important things in life to get perplexed about, and I let it go and enjoyed the show. On the whole THE RAVEN was uneven but it hit the spot as a riveting, ghastly and well acted Pop-Goth celluloid ride! If you’re looking for more than that, like a Poe biography, depth and thought provoking themes, you’re watching the wrong movie!
We get a body sliced in half, a severed hand, a nasty throat slit, mangled bodies, human organs and more! Gore-hounds are well served here!
T & A
We're treated to some healthy Alice Eve cleavage shots - gracias! If ya want to see them cantaloupes uncovered, click NSFW here
! Thank me later!
There are two ways you can go into THE RAVEN. 1- As a nitpicker, (no teeth weren’t that white in the 18th century and nope the word serial killer didn’t exist…I DON'T CARE!!) or 2- As somebody that wants to have a good time with a big budget, eye popping and goretastic thriller. I went for option two. Visually stunning, brutal and loving it, with a relentless pace and solid performances; THE RAVEN made me forget my troubles for 111 minutes and took me on a "love-you-long time" macabre ride. Sure the romantic subplot was weak-tit, the whodunit not milked as it should have been, the characters were kind of thin and the killer’s change of M.O. felt "off"; but that didn’t ruin my sit down. I was entertained!! All that matters to me. Worth a watch!
Ewan McGregor and Jeremy Renner were originally attached to star (as Poe and Fields) but it didn't happen. Joaquin Phoenix was also in the running for a lead role at some point.
Noomi Rapace was offered the part of Emily. She said F*CK OFF! In not so many words...;)