The Raven (R15)

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Review byMatthew Turner8/03/2012

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 111 mins

Enjoyable period thriller that plays like a Gothic version of Seven and succeeds thanks to a literate script, atmospheric direction, some suitably grisly murder sequences and a superb performance from John Cusack.

What's it all about?
Directed by James McTeigue, The Raven is a period thriller that posits itself as a speculative account of the last days of author Edgar Allan Poe, whose own death is was shrouded in mystery. Set in 19th century Baltimore, the film stars John Cusack as Poe, a down-on-his-luck, borderline alcoholic (with a pet raccoon, no less) who's forced to team up with hotshot detective Emmett Fields (Luke Evans) after a vicious serial killer commits a series of murders based on Poe's stories.

However, when the killer realises that the author is on his trail, he kidnaps Poe's beautiful – and fictional - fianceé Emily (Alice Eve) and taunts him by leaving clues to her whereabouts on various corpses. At the same time, he forces Poe to write a daily account of his agonies in the newspaper, thereby returning him to his former glory as a writer.

The Good
Cusack is excellent as Poe, delivering a haunted, volatile performance that is extremely engaging, despite the fact that he's less than sympathetic when the film begins (his angry rants against fellow writers are very amusing); he also finds time to deliver a rendition of Poe's titular poem that's so good that someone ought to sign him up to a series of audiobooks. In addition, there's strong support from Alice Eve (though she's rather underused) and Luke Evans, while Brendan Gleeson contributes a reliably entertaining turn as Emily's father, who, in time-honoured fashion, refuses to cancel his masked ball just because a killer has threatened to turn up and murder everyone.

McTeigue generates a genuinely suspenseful atmosphere and orchestrates a couple of suitably grisly death scenes, most notably a recreation of The Pit and the Pendulum that wouldn't be out of place in a Saw movie. The production design is impressive too, aided by some quirky touches like Poe's raccoon.

The Bad
The main problem with the film is the final act, which becomes a little too like Seven for its own good and fails to satisfy, not least because the actor playing the killer rather overdoes it. Still, at least it's better than the comparatively similar From Hell.

Worth seeing?
Despite its flaws, The Raven is an enjoyable thriller that's worth seeing for a terrific performance from John Cusack; his rendition of the title poem is worth the price of admission alone.

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Content updated: 13/11/2019 02:33

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