At no point during The Raven does Edgar Allan Poe turn to the camera and says, “Poe ahead. Make my day”—but he might as well have.
This movie, set in Baltimore (but filmed, oddly enough, in Budapest and Serbia) is a colossal waste of the inspired casting of John Cusack as Poe and of an intriguing film premise: What were the actual events surrounding Poe’s mysterious final days? (He was found delirious on the streets of Baltimore and died shortly thereafter).
A straight-up biopic, with a little conspiracy-theory mumbo jumbo thrown in, would’ve been grand (and we have a tiny glimpse at what might’ve been, early in the film, when a broke Poe tries smooth talk his way into a free drink at a bar).
Instead, we have that tired chestnut: Serial killer recreates ghoulish scenes from horror writer’s works.
At first, Poe is a suspect, but eventually he’s enlisted to aid the detective (Luke Evans) who is investigating the case. Then, the killer kidnaps Poe’s fiancée—and it’s a battle against the clock for her survival! (Really.)
At one point, Poe actually hops on a horse and gallops after a suspect. (Really, again.) Also, there’s that gun thing. (See above.)
It’s a shame, because Cusack has fun as Poe, and looks great with his billowing coats and dark black goatee.
Even if the producers wanted to try some sort of Edgar Allan Poe: action hero, a la the recent relaunch of Sherlock Holmes, couldn’t they have come up with a better premise? Maybe Poe could help the police force solve a mystery, not stand around going, “Oh my God, it’s The Pit and the Pendulum come to life!” (Okay, not in so many words).
Also, can someone please explain to me why Poe has a pet raccoon in this thing? Anyone?
*Mustering all the restraint I have to not end this review with the word “nevermore.”*