The Raven (2012)
By: J.R. McNamara on July 26, 2013 | Comments
Universal | Region B | 2.35:1, 1080p | English DTS-HD MA 5.1 | 111 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: James McTeigue
Starring: John Cusack, Luke Evans, Alice Eve, Brendan Gleeson, Kevin McNally
Screenplay: Hannah Shakespeare, Ben Livingston
Country: USA
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Edgar Allen Poe is a name that should resonate quite strongly with everyone in the horror community. Whether it's because of his large volume of American horror/crime literature classics or from the countless film and TV adaptations of his tales, Poe remains a cornerstone of modern horror. We all know his work, of course, but what of the man himself? What kind of man was he?

Well, this film won't answer those questions as it is a fictional account of what happened on the days preceding his death on 7th October 1849, after being found 4 days earlier wandering the streets of Baltimore, delirious, and with the name 'Reynolds' on his lips.

The Raven sees Poe (John Cusack) return from a trip, penniless and in desperate need of a drink, but what he doesn't realise is that a murderer has been committing crimes based on his work. Initially the police, specifically lead investigator Detective Fields (Luke Evans of The Three Musketeers) suspect Poe, but soon come realise that it is certainly not Poe executing people using scenarios from Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Pit and the Pendulum, but is instead a twisted fan whose crimes have lured Poe into the case. Eventually, the killer wants to bring Poe deeper into the investigation, so he drives a personal stake through its heart by kidnapping Poe's lover, Emily Hamilton (Alice Eve of Star Trek Into Darkness) and burying her alive, not to be freed until Poe solves a series of puzzles, issued as a challenge to his intellect.

Will Poe be able to work out the clues and save the girl? Only time, which is running out, will tell…

The Raven is directed by James McTeigue, who previously directed one of my favourite films, V for Vendetta and the blood festival Ninja Assassin. Thankfully, here he shows the restraint of the former rather than the frenetic violence of the latter, which would've looked out of place in what is essentially an investigative thriller, though that's not to say there aren't some gory set-pieces. 'The Pit and the Pendulum' should be of specific delight to gore fans.

A warning for those gore fans though, when blood does fly, it is of the CGI variety and frankly, it doesn't look very convincing. The rest of the films visuals are impressive though, and McTeigue does have a fine eye for detail. Technically, he certainly knows his craft when it comes to setting a scene. Costumes and sets help take the viewer back to the appropriate period, and the entire visual style of the film is excellent. His execution of an average, and generic, serial killer script may look good, but the story falls apart due to one significant aspect.

His direction of the actors is odd. Most of the characters are played quite straight, and with a subtlety suitable for the period in which the film is set, but John Cusack's portrayal of Poe is nuttier than squirrel shit. Occasionally it is played for amusement, especially when he is insulting someone, but occasionally it doesn't fit in with the rest of the cast. This possibly was intentional as to make Poe a larger than life character, but to this humble reviewer it often came off as grating and fake, and quite honestly, made it hard to sympathise with Poe as he came of as a bi-polar arsehole, which is a shame, as I am quite the fan of Cusack.

All in all I really wanted to like The Raven, but throughout it felt like an inferior version of something like Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow or the Hughes Brothers' From Hell. In fact, it was as if the overblown caricature that was Depp's Ichabod Crane was investigating the brutal murders of Jack the Ripper.
The Disc
The film is presented in 2.35:1 and the HD image is crisp and remarkably sharp, while the energetic and dynamic DTS Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack keeps the full sound stage occupied for most of the movie. There are three extras on this disc, two of which are the usual totally unnecessary Deleted and Extended Scenes, which may provide a bit of amusement but don't really offer more to the film at all. There is also a commentary by director James McTeague and producers Aaron Ryder, Marc D. Evans and Trevor Macy which is both an informative look at the film, and the life and times of Poe.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
It looks pretty slick, but The Raven is a run-of-the-mill serial killer investigation film that probably wouldn't stand out were it not for the addition of the Poe character. It's not a complete waste of time, but there are far better thrillers of its type kind out there.
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