The Raven

Posted April 29, 2012 by in


Total Score

2.5/ 5

Quick Stats

Genre: horror, thriller
Director: James McTeigue
MPAA Rating: R
Actors: John Cusack, Alice Eve, Luke Evans
Length: 110 minutes
Release Date: 4/27/2012
Studio: Intrepid Pictures, FilmNation Entertainment, Galavis Film, Pioneer Pictures, Relativity Media, Work in Progress
What We Thought

Rich in atmosphere, but poor in character development.

by Daniel Hodgson
Full Article
The Raven belongs to that limbo category of films not bad enough to hate, not good enough to love.  I neither liked it nor disliked it.  The most I can say for it is that it has enough tension to hold interest—it’s by no means boring—but it never thrills or fascinates.  The ending does payoff, but barely.
     Police arrive just as a killer finishes off a victim and locks the door.  The police break in, only to find the killer nowhere in sight.  The window was nailed shut, so how did he escape?
     The crime bears a resembles to a certain, horrific short story.  And so, the police contact its author:  Edgar Allan Poe (John Cusack).  At first, they treat him as a suspect, but quickly determine he could not have committed the crime.
     Another murder.  They bring Poe to the crime scene, enlisting his aid, as the author may have insights into the killer’s mind.
     Meanwhile, the penniless Poe woos the beautiful Emily Hamilton (Alice Eve).  After a brief romantic interlude, the couple decide to marry one another, and intend to make their announcement at her father’s costume ball, even though the killer left a clue that he’d make a macabre appearance there.  Despite police presence, the killer manages to abduct Emily.  The madman leaves a note behind, declaring that he will continue the killing spree, where he will leave clues as to Emily’s whereabouts.  He further states that Poe must write about the killings in the newspaper.
     The Raven has just the lighting design it needs; Poe and company are drenched in dramatic shadows, but scenes are never too murky.  The dialog is stylized, as is Cusack’s performance.  While Poe had formidable facility with language, I doubt his speech was quite this elegant on the fly.  Nevertheless, the dialog is filled with clever wordplay, but the problem is that there’s scant investment in those who speak it.
     My chief complaint against The Raven is that an early, key scene is misdirected.  In the costume ball scene, it’s not shown how the killer manages to abduct Emily.  The mansion is filled with policemen, and Poe himself is clearly shown by Emily’s side.  How exactly did the kidnapping happen?  The film rests on a plot point that doesn’t hold water.  For Heaven’s sake, this is a detective story!  How’s and why’s are important—the killer’s motivation boils down to pure madness at that.  The Raven lost me early on, and never really reclaimed my suspension of disbelief.
     It doesn’t help that Poe is not himself in danger, so there’s not much tension.  It’s Emily whose life is at risk, yet our investment in her is limited to Poe’s deep need for her.  The body count rises, but none of the victims receive an iota of development.  There is blood, there is gore, but we’ve seen it all before.  The Raven is atmospheric, yet only has a small handful of solid visuals.  Ultimately, The Raven is a “B” movie thriller with an “A” level character.  If you’re looking for a time-killer, The Raven will suffice—faint praise, but I hope it’s enough.  Some fanboys take criticism very personally.  Eesh.

About the Author

Daniel Hodgson

Daniel has a degree in film from the University of Texas at Austin, and writes about himself in the third-person, because that's the fashion.


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