The Raven reinvents Edgar Allan Poe as a brave, dashing, romantic hero worthy of the wealthy, flaxen-haired beauty, Emily Hamilton. But when Miss Hamilton disappears at the hand of a killer with a flair for imitating Poe’s macabre stories, can Poe write a happy ending for his own real-life dark tale?
Edgar Allan Poe, played by a dark and brooding John Cusack, hates other writers, hates being poor, but loves his girlfriend, the lovely Emily (Alice Eve). Only her father Captain Hamilton (Brendan Gleeson) must have read some of Poe’s morbid stories, because he doesn’t want the melancholy miscreant near his daughter, despite her plans to announce her engagement to the writer at her coming-out costume ball.
At least that’s the plan for these raven-crossed lovers until a violent series of murders is discovered, made to look like scenes from Poe’s stories. Poe is questioned by Detective Fields (the sexy and intense Luke Evans), who asks to examine the poet’s hands.
The handprints on the two women’s necks had an eight-inch reach, allowing Fields to quickly rule out Poe as a suspect due to his small hands. So the question becomes: Will Poe help catch this copycat killer who will most certainly be at Emily’s party? Poe agrees, but gets much more than he bargained for when Emily is kidnapped.
Poe must now use clues left by this serial killer, and scenarios from his own stories, to outsmart his own dark imagination.
The real fun in The Raven comes from piecing together bits of Poe’s fabulous horror stories and seeing many of them come to life on screen. The Pit and the Pendulum reenactment will have you squirming in your seat, along with the live burial inspired by The Cask of Amontillado.
The creepiness of Poe’s grotesque stories is alive and well over 150 years after they were written. Poe played on the most primal of fears, and the backdrop of 19th century Baltimore makes for an entertaining murder-mystery.
The one thing the film lacks is a true examination and fascination of the death of a beautiful, sickly young woman, as is so romantically tragic and intriguing in Poe’s works like Annabel Lee and Berenice. But Cusack’s Poe is dashing not nebbish, romantic not depressive, and definitely worth seeing.
Bottom line: If you’re fond of Poe’s stories, have a penchant for gothic romance, or tend to wear a lot of black, then you’ll love this murder-mystery in all its gruesome glory.