THE RAVEN (James McTeigue, 2012)
In the spirit of fact marrying fiction on celluloid, such as Hitler getting slaughtered inside a cinema during the gala premiere of his propaganda film, or Abraham Lincoln being a vampire hunter, a most welcome addition to the pack is popular author of the macabre Edgar Allan Poe chasing after his tail- that is to say stopping a madman mimicking the murders depicted in his literary works.
Whereas Tarantino's INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS ventured into the absurd, and Timur Bekmambetov's ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER was more of an alternate reality, THE RAVEN- with John Cusack donning the shoes of the popular mysterious writer, takes a more serious approach to welding fact and fiction together, as if the plot of THE RAVEN is what really transpired in Poe's life.
The familiar elements are there- Poe's unexplained death, his repeated address of the name "Reynolds", and his rivalry with a fellow critic named Griswald, of which I may say that the film takes a generous and "sharp" stab at (pun intended). Those familiar with Poe's works may find the film more interesting (or distasteful, depending on your preference), but those like myself who has not read a single Poe, even a quick Google search may shed extra light on the film's take on Poe and his morbid themes.
THE RAVEN depicts Poe as a drunk, penniless, post-fame, but struggling to get on his feet. He intends to marry the beautiful Emily (Alice Eve), much to the despise of her father (Brendan Gleeson). A murder of a mother and daughter fashioned a la "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" sends Inspector Emmett Fields (Luke Evans) on a hunt for what seems a copycat killer. Edgar Allan Poe, first suspected as the perpetrator- is soon assisting the police in catching the killer. When Emily is taken hostage, Poe is taunted further by the killer, luring him in his game in exchange for Emily's life.
And so it begins. More murders ensue. The references to Poe's works pile one after the other, which suggests that the killer is either a fan, or a vengeful anonymous.
Poe's dark elements are maintained, especially in the production design and the story treatment. When the killer is revealed, the confrontation is satisfying. He is neither pathetic nor dimwitted. A cunning foe most hidden from plain sight. Think Jeffery Deaver's THE BONE COLLECTOR. (That's it, no more clues!)
A slight indentation though, is how Emily managed to survive without air for so long. Either she never dies like Milla Jovovich in the neverending RESIDENT EVIL films, or we are watching a miracle happen. In fact the time element of the movie is nauseating one can't tell how many days have already passed.
And how the hell did the killer take Emily at a ball filled with people, when she is dancing with Poe?
Nevertheless, THE RAVEN manages to thrill with its use of history and literature, and juxtaposing biting ironies into the plot (the death dealer meets his death, among other things). The inner demons of Poe are somewhat channeled out, although there could have been one or two actors I would have chosen better to portray Edgar Allan Poe (Jude Law, perhaps?).