Edgar Allan Poe is one of the most widely read authors of American literature. Whether you are aware of it or not, it is extremely likely that his words have crossed your path at one time or another. His works deliver the gore and the passion we’ve all learned to love with talented and skillfully crafted prose. The Raven is a wonderfully fitting use of Poe’s works, and I am positive that the author would be proud.
This nineteenth century gritty thriller stars John Cusack as Edgar Allan Poe himself as he joins forces with a young Baltimore detective (Luke Evans) to hunt down a crazed serial killer who appears to be using Poe’s stories as his inspiration for a pile of brutal homicides.
When a mother and daughter are found brutally murdered in their apartment by police officers, Detective Emmet Fields finds the crime scene uncomfortably familiar. A fictional murder described in gory detail and recently published in the local newspaper was penned by none other than the struggling and isolated Edgar Allan Poe. The work of fiction had become very real. Poe is brought to the detective’s office for questioning just as another grisly murder occurs, clearly inspired by another popular Poe story.
Realizing that the serial killer’s bloody rampage has found its foundations in Poe’s writings, Detective Fields enlists the author’s help in bringing an end to the vicious attacks. However, the stakes become even higher as the murderer marks Poe’s beloved Emily (Alice Eve) as his next victim. The inventor of the detective story must call on his own powers of deduction to solve the case and cast the light on the perpetrator before it is too late.
The biggest hurdle with a nineteenth century film is its relevance: attempting to create a storyline that despite its setting still connects with a twenty-first century audience. Director James McTeigue rises to the challenge and manages to work multiple pieces of popular American literature into an unbelievably well-developed story.
There are so many little details that the plot could’ve easily left viewers having to connect the dots for themselves, but McTeigue makes it work. It manages to set itself apart from the usual Jack the Ripper theme that plagues the majority of nineteenth century thrillers akin to Johnny Depp’s From Hell.
The role of Poe’s beloved Emily was originally offered to Noomi Rapace (The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo), but she declined. Luckily, Alice Eve filled the spot and brought a little light to an otherwise gloomy picture that might have been further darkened by Rapace’s intense features.
John Cusack took on a difficult task when he accepted the role of Poe, but even with that in mind I can’t say he was at his best. His look and presence depicts how I would imagine Edgar Allan Poe’s. However, there were a number of moments when he felt disconnected from the role, which inadvertently assisted in the ‘social pariah’ quality of the character. The chemistry between Cusack and Eve was minimal.
Logan Evans’ delivery was a little dry but suited the rational and intellectual Detective Fields. Cusack and Evans played off of each other pretty well, possibly exhibiting more chemistry than Cusack and Eve. Nevertheless, Evans complemented the film’s extravagance.
There is something fundamentally awesome about the use of true American literature on the big screen, but to combine it with contemporary and original creativity is impressive beyond words. You just can’t help but feel a sense of hope for the intellectual future of the film industry.