Monday, 19 March 2012



"It's not awful" is pretty much the best that can be said about this ambitious but unsuccessful stab at bringing Edgar Allan Poe to wider attention by dumping him in the middle of a copycat serial killer spree. Oddly it doesn't ever raise the idea of fictional horror triggering genuine horror, being content mainly to name-check a lot of Poe stories and stir them into an unlikely and frankly pretty dreary slasher caper. I didn't spot The Black Cat, but I don't doubt that it's in there somewhere, along with The Masque Of The Red Death, The Facts In The Case Of M. Valdemar and The Pit And The Pendulum.

Ostensibly telling of Poe's last few days before his death at the age of 40, The Raven stars John Cusack as Poe, depicted as a penniless and frankly boorish alcoholic with no writing left in him, and dragged into the police investigation of a pair of locked-room killings inspired by Poe's story The Murders In The Rue Morgue. Then Poe's literary nemesis is spectacularly bisected in a re-enactment of The Pit And The Pendulum (which feels more like a re-enactment of the opening of Saw V). But who is the Poe-inspired maniac? And when he abducts Poe's beloved Emily (Alice Eve) and buries her alive, can Poe find her in time and unmask the killer?

It's all pretty far-fetched and implausible - for example that Emily's father (Brendan Gleeson) is going ahead with his masked ball and in effect take the role of Red Death's Prospero, something which is beyond the killer's control. What the movie really needed was to go completely bonkers in the stylisation and violence in the best Tenebrae tradition - after all, Argento did his own Poe-pourri with his "adaptation" of The Black Cat in the underrated Two Evil Eyes - but sadly it all remains rather staid and stolid. It's nicely enough done and it has plenty of atmosphere, but it's too restrained, apart from the Pendulum sequence which is the only point at which the film roars into life. It's not awful, but to be honest, you're much better served by banging Red Death, Tomb Of Ligeia and so on to the top of your rental queues.


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