Imagine a cross between the action of Fight Club, the mystery of recent Sherlock Holmes films, a splash of horror a’la Seven, the darkness of The Crow, and maybe a dash of paranoia from Angel Heart or Jacob’s Ladder…
I know, you can’t really imagine such a thing. So stop stretching your imagination and go see The Raven starring John Cusack as the enigmatic granddaddy of all horror authors, Edgar Allan Poe.
I haven’t seen a bad John Cusack film yet, and he continues to impress even though he still looks, sounds and acts like John Cusack, and you half expect him to whip out a boom box and hold it overhead like he did in Say Anything (1989). All the same, he does a great job as Edgar Allan Poe…that is to say, a drunken lush of an author-slash-suffering-artiste.
The sound was wonderfully loud and clear. I usually make mental notes about the score/soundtrack throughout movies, but The Raven kept me so engaged that I never had time to notice the music. Obviously, this is a good thing, because bad background music will pull me right straight out of most films, and that didn’t happen here. Till the end credits anyway, see below.
The horror that occurs in The Raven is the top-shelf psychological stuff crossed with enough really-real gore to set a disturbing mood and enough mystery and mind-screwingly, insidious, underlying darkenss to keep you biting your nails right up until the end.
You needn’t be well-versed in the works of Edgar Allen Poe to appreciate this film. I doubt there’s any historical accuracy in this, but it’s a good primer of Poe’s stories for those who don’t know much about them. Many of his classics come up throughout the movie, wonderfully woven into the actual plot by a serial killer who murders his victims in the method of Poe’s writings: The Pit and the Pendulum, The Cask of Amontillado, (which I’ve been apparently pronouncing wrong all these years), Murders in the Rue Morgue, Masque of the Red Death, The Tell-Tale Heart, and The Raven of course…
Don’t try to solve the mystery. I’m not spoiling anything by telling you there aren’t enough clues shown in The Raven for you to solve it. In fact, I’m saving you the trouble. Just keeping up with the plot will keep you busy. Actually, the film attempts to duplicate the hectic pacing and feel of the recent series of Sherlock Holmes films, with limited success.
The denouement seemed like a “we’re about to run out of film!” rush-job. While it provided ample closure after a marginal climax, it would have done better as a cookie; a bonus feature shown after the movie credits.
At the very start of the end credits there was some annoying music and some metallic-animated-thing that that was so utterly bizarre that if it didn’t actually say “The Raven” in it, I’d swear the projectionist screwed up the reels. My guess is that someone got a new After Effects Plugin. It belonged in a music video behind a Tool song remixed into dubstep. Whatever it was, it did not belong in this movie.
If you like your fiction as dark as your coffee, and if you enjoy John Cusack, then you owe it to yourself to check out The Raven while it’s still in theaters.