The tv series The Following actually ruined my enjoyment of The Raven. Or at least, it helped highlight the flaws in what could have been a very good horror/thriller. There is a lot of leverage in a story in which a killer, inspired by Edgar Allan Poe and his murderous, gory and grotesque fiction, goes on a killing spree. The Following demonstrated this brilliantly, at least for the first half of the season, and it meant that a film that shared similar themes should also have been a success too.
Especially when that movie was set in the time of Edgar Allan Poe and actually involved the writer investigating his own works and the murders they inspired. The film should have been a scary, eerie, “Jack the Ripper in Victorian London-esque” piece but instead we got something much more generic. It wasn’t bad, it just didn’t inspire like it should have.
It begins very well, John Cusack has proven that he is an able actor and brings a very eccentric and superior quality to Poe that could have set him up well as an alternative Sherlock Holmes (for this movie at least). It also presents the first few murder cases in a very gory, forthright way which lay the foundations for more horrible and scary cases to follow. Unfortunately, these small ideas don’t grow into anything like the movie it should have been.
After the murder case has been presented and Cusack’s Poe has become the detective, he loses the eccentric, horror-inspired character and becomes something much more generic. He is forced to run from place to place, argue with everyone and anyone and eventually figure out who the murderer is after the identity is practically told to him. We don’t get a murder case where we could try to figure out who the killer is but instead a series of stumbles and mistakes until the killer decides to reveal his identity.
The great murders that were presented at the beginning soon become underwhelming, foiled plots. I wasn’t particularly looking for something like Saw but more development of the Poe inspired murders theme would have been much more interesting and made for a better mystery.
What the movie should have done from the beginning was decide whether it wanted to be a thriller, horror or even an adventure story, with Poe as investigator and hero. What happens is it tries to be a bit of all of them but without the scare and tension of a horror, the excitement and pace of a thriller or even the enjoyment or inspiration of an adventure movie. When The Following, a tv series made at a similar time to this movie, can create an interesting, scary and involving series of murders, and the investigations that follow, inspired by Edgar Allan Poe, then there shouldn’t be any reason why a movie set in the contemporary period can’t do the same with a lot more success.
Overall, The Raven disappointed me. After seeing The Following and learning about how a killer could use Edgar Allan Poe as inspiration for murders, I thought this movie would present me with something scary, thrilling and interesting. After great potential in the beginning, mainly from John Cusack, what resulted was a movie much more generic and uninspiring. Great idea but poorly executed.
Rating – 2.5
(1-3 – awful/avoid. 4-6 – average. 7-8 – good. 9-10 – fantastic.)