The reviews for this film have ranged poor to fair, and this film has Hollywood blazing aimlessly into the doom and gloom of the horror, and this at the stage of Poe’ s literary birth. The film stars John Cusack as Edgar Allen Poe, adding his mixture of intrigue and Poe’s noted drunkenness, to a weaving wobbly character. The film and the screenwriters take liberties, after all, The Raven film is not a historical account of Poe’s last days, and not intended, by the director James McTeigue, containing though a final true name from Edgar’s dying breath, Reynolds. The storyline simply well paced and fast feeling, directed to the younger audience members, hence influencing the bottom line. The film opens with the broke, drunken and yet passionate writer lashing out to prove his worth with grandiose mannerism to illiterate masses, only to find himself hated by his love, (Alice Eve) Emily’s father Captain Hamilton (Brendan Gleeson) and adored by serial killer via for not only Poe’s attention but to create theatrical scenes from Poe’s stories. Director McTeigue’s most beautiful film kill that got many “ewww” from the audience are solely attributed to the Pendulum kill, which any horror or Poe aficionado knows I patterned to The Pit and the Pendulum. Nevertheless, the believability to create the pendulum device leaves one puzzled and stretches the spectrum of disbelief a tad too far. This serial killer must have immense wealth as this contraption, as the character states “is larger than I presumed”, while the audience craves new ways to see Poe’s descriptive kills we also need to believe they are truly capable of creation, but this is over the top. Some may recall Roger Corman’s Pit and the Pendulum, a castle used the device in their Spanish Inquisition torture chamber, more believable and able to accept that it exists there to dispel of individuals.
Ben Livingston’s and Hannah Shakespeare‘s screenplay, brings an interesting slice to the rotting corpse of Rufus Wilmot Griswold, Poe’s literary adversary, with is brutal death, as Griswold outlived Poe, and continued for his remaining years trying to destroy Poe’s history with lies. Cusack continues throughout the film to bring the drunken mastermind to a likeable status, and with the screenplay overlooking a difficult and highly unusually aspect in Poe’s actual life, that of him marrying his thirteen-year-old cousin.
Without giving away the ending, or too many spoilers, the ending is a letdown, grabbing for the moonlight and actually getting it, leaves one shaking their head in disbelief. As Emily tries to survive buried alive, the criminal mastermind, forces Poe to print exquisite details of the crime scenes, which actually places in his own coffin, buried, challenged and even discussed for evermore. We, the audience also watch Poe go from a drunk to a managing alcoholic to action hero, which while his love lies in trouble boosts his adrenaline however the late film action, stretches the tightrope a tad too much for this high wire act. The greatest line, in the film, that gets a chuckle from many, as Cusack states, “If I’d have known my work would have such a morbid effect on people, I would’ve devoted more time to eroticism.” Sadly, we are left aching for Roger Corman and his Poe based films, for the true essence of Poe’s Gothic gloomy and influential style.
A side note, Edgar Allen Poe’s lovely story The Cask of Amontillado, is just one of many of his poems and stories mention in this film, however The Raven brings an interesting twist to the tale, while a recent award winning short film, from director Joseph J. Graves’ The Cellar stayed true to the essence of Poe’s creation. In addition, for the trivia individuals and the sick-minded folks, the once famed television show, Homicide: Life on the Streets, with episode “Heartbeat” took a nice spin on Poe’s creation of sealed in a wall.