Mystery, by Mike Richardson, 12 May 2012

Director: James McTeigue

Stars: John Cusack, Alice Eve and Luke Evans

Country: USA


Release Date:

Language: English

Our Ratings: 3/10

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary…

So quoth Edgar Allan Poe in his 1845 poem The Raven.

The poem continues,

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,

The Raven

The Raven

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a really rubbish cinematic take on the troubled author’s final days! The film is The Raven, starring John Cusack as Poe and Eddie deserved better, especially as he didn’t earn a cent from his most famous poem, having published it first in a newspaper for free and thereby losing any and all future copyright monies.

Literary historians know that the final days of Edgar Allan Poe’s life are a mystery, although as the writer was a crazed dipsomaniac involved in the beer-fuelled process of vote rigging, it’s not beyond the realms of plausibility that he drank himself into a fit before being found, semi-lucid on the streets of Baltimore, dying soon after (having never regained his senses) in a local hospital.

In in the film version of his final day directed by James McTeigue, produced by Scott Levy, and based on a screenplay by Ben Livingston and Hannah (in name only) Shakespeare a 19th century Se7en-like serial killer stalks Baltimore, seemingly inspired by Poe’s fictional characters (a victim is sliced open with the a pendulum (in a pit), there’s a premature burial, a black cat, a heart tells a tale, and in line with (the principal detective novel The Murders in the Rue Morgue) a mother has her throat slit while her daughter is strangled and stuffed up the chimney.

The police are baffled, as they always seem to be across the ages and decide to call in the dark and brooding author, a dark and brooding Cusack forming an awkward alliance between incompetent pragmatic policemen the wild man of melodramatic Gothic fiction. Will they stop the murders in time, will they save the damsel in distress, will the audience stay awake until the end…we may never care.

It’s such a shame that an author as fantastic, in the true sense of the word, who was kind enough to tee-up a thrilling story by dying in suspicious and mysterious circumstances is so cruelly served by everyone involved in this film.
The film is bland where it could have been complex, it’s ridiculous when it could have been outlandish and unlike so much of Poe’s work, there is no guts or humour on show.

Director McTeigue follows up his dogs dinner that was V for Vendetta with this pig’s ear of a film. Sadly there is very little to recommend The Raven other than by association to the author. They have been myriad documentaries and theories about the last days of Poe but The Raven could have gone in a totally different, entertaining and outlandish direction offering up a forlorn Gothic romantic blockbuster with a flash of flintlocks and the clash of blades.

Even something as Marc Olden’s (so bad it’s good) novel Poe Must Die, which also covered the later stages of the author’s life but managed to include PT Barnum, Cockney bare knuckle fighters, the gangs of New York, the devil himself, the throne of Solomon, midgets, child molesters, witchcraft and Charles Dickens in a ludicrously stupid, but satisfying penny dreadful would have been a more entertaining trip to the cinema than this film.

Sadly The Raven (the film) is just bad enough to be bad, and all the worse for the waste of a decent premise.

As E.A said,

And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor

Shall be lifted – nevermore!

The Raven Trailer

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