The Raven | Film review
Edgar Allan Poe hunts a serial killer in a ludicrous new thriller.
To this day, no one knows who or what was responsible for the untimely demise of Edgar Allan Poe. The Raven offers one possible (albeit far-fetched) explanation, but the real mystery here is who in his right mind would cast John Cusack, sardonic poster boy of eternal hangdog adolescence, as the famously troubled author. Storming a local saloon, begging for drinks and admonishing hecklers, a goateed Cusack bellows, “I am Poe, not poor, mouth-breather!” with hambone relish. It’s a (mis)casting coup so brazen it almost works, especially when you consider that this ludicrous historical-fiction thriller has more in common with Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes than the ghoulish writings of its subject.
The title, in fact, is a complete misnomer. Instead of talking crows we get a ruthless serial murderer who’s using Poe’s macabre short stories as inspiration. “The killer’s taunting us,” exclaims Luke Evans’s Baltimore police detective as he uncovers a trail of clues so fiendishly intricate you wonder if John Doe from Seven might be the time-traveling culprit. Meanwhile, Cusack’s dashing eccentric feeds human hearts to his pet raccoon and romances a blond beauty (Alice Eve); in a convenient historical omission, it goes unmentioned that Poe’s deceased ex-wife was also his 13-year-old first cousin. Excepting one grisly set piece—a pit and a pendulum may be involved—The Raven feels about as dangerous as Shakespeare in Love. And how sick are we of the whole monologuing-villain routine? Nevermore, please.