By Shane M. Dallmann
A prologue reminds us that Edgar Allan Poe died under mysterious circumstances, setting us up not for a remake of any other film called THE RAVEN but a fanciful speculation of what might have happened. So no spoilers there.
As you may have surmised from the TV spots, somebody in Baltimore has started a wave of “copycat” killings inspired by Poe’s works. Hey, THEATER OF BLOOD remains one of my favorite films and I like John Cusack, so THE RAVEN started with the right ingredients in my book… let’s see what develops.
The question as far as the police are concerned is whether or not Poe himself is involved in the murders. They tend to doubt it, but they need his insight all the same… especially when Poe’s secret fiancee (Alice Eve) is abducted in the midst of a MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH-inspired fiasco. Poe then receives a mysterious audiocassette which begins ominously: “Hello, Edgar. I want to play a game.”
Oh, sorry… audiocassettes weren’t actually invented back then. It was just a plain old note. But you get the idea.
I won’t spell it out, but you’re likely to guess the villain’s identity before anybody on screen does. And since we’re NOT dealing with an independently wealthy engineering genius, nobody even THINKS to ask just how in the blue hell our antagonist managed to obtain, assemble and deploy an elaborate PIT AND THE PENDULUM deathtrap without anybody catching on.
Mystery? Predictable. Outcome? Inevitable (see prologue). Gore? CGI.
Cusack? As I said, I tend to like him in just about anything, but he doesn’t channel the tortured genius of Edgar Allan Poe as I see it. He seems far too healthy and upbeat, even when he’s self-righteously bemoaning his lot in life to bartenders and editors alike. And one barely bats an eye even when he feeds a human heart to his pet raccoon (yes, you read that correctly). The “torment” thing kicks in eventually, but by then it was far too late for the movie to connect with me in any significant way…
…because, worst of all, it was the one thing it shouldn’t have been. Boring.
Make that boring AND visually obnoxious–though this did NOT come out in converted 3-D, it was obvious that plans were made in that department, as computerized bullets, blood splatters, etc. keep trying to pop directly into our faces (and don’t get me started on the awful end title sequence).
What a wasted opportunity.