The Raven (2012)
The Raven is a high concept movie in which author Edgar Allan Poe discovers that a serial killer is copying his literary work. It mixes a traditional Gothic sense of style with postmodern depictions of violence and has a quirky, erudite and fun screenplay. The film has a strong streak of gallows humour running through it and a solid cast. It is however an unbalanced production that never quite hits its stride, despite its fast pace. Like director James McTeigue's earlier film V for Vendetta I suspect that The Raven may be another slow burner, finding its audience over time rather than initially.
The cast is strong with Luke Evans, Alice Eve and John Cusack as Poe. Brendan Gleeson sports a splendid pair of sideburns (grips) and as usual provides an assured performance as Poe's father-in-law. The cinematography is reminiscent of Hammer's baroque style with a hint of Argento thrown in, courtesy of DP Danny Ruhlmann. The dialogue is equally whippy and writers Ben Livingston and Hannah Shakespeare script is not without merit. Poe fans will enjoy spotting the many homages both great and small. Yet despite its virtues The Raven still doesn't quite reach the heights of the material it references.
A lot of the films shortcomings stem from the character of Poe himself. John Cusack’s performances is strong and he is very watchable but is perhaps a little too good looking compared to the alcoholic, drug addicted, dissipated reality of the author. Furthermore, the film pits Poe as a foil to Detective Emmett Fields, rather than making him the lead in the investigation. The dynamic although well-structured seems wrong. Shouldn't Poe, the creator of the great fictional detective Monsieur Dupin, not be taking the lead in the solving the ongoing crimes? The denouement when the killer is unmasked in true Scooby Doo fashion, also doesn't come as a major surprise.
The Raven, despite its uneven nature is still an enjoyable film and it is nice to see period set costume horror making a welcome return. If you liked V for Vendetta, I suspect that you may also embrace this movie. It has many of the former's strengths and weaknesses. Those who favour the current vogue of horror film making, as seen in the likes of Paranormal Activity or any of the recent reboots, may be disappointed. The Raven may well improve with a second viewing and I intend to do so at a later date. I shall not say anything further less I give in to my urge to say "nevermore" or make a reference to the Teletubbies.