The Raven – John Cusack as Edgar Allan Poe

image Since I’m a fan of Cusack and Poe, I had every intention of seeing this movie when it came out in theaters last April. I went to "Abraham Lincoln" and thought this movie would make a great "double header" so to speak. But for some reason, the idea simply slipped out of my head. Before I knew it, the movie had come and gone. And when I asked if anyone had seen it, no one knew what I was talking about. It’s disappointing, because overall, I found myself liking this movie.

The plot is a bit ridiculous, as a murderer bases his crimes on the works of Poe. But this isn’t the first time a movie has been made with this premise. I seem to recall some other low budget horror movie using the same concept. See, it’s not so outrageous.

We find Poe in a rather beleaguered state. He’s on the verge of intoxication or in need of "fortitude", he’s nearly broke since he can’t get any of his reviews published and he doesn’t have another "Tell Tale Heart" in him. As the editor says, "write me something that sells." He’s also at odds with his beloved’s father who thinks he’s nothing but a drunk, opium addict and atheist. Needless to say, Edgar is down on his luck.

And then he finds himself at the center of a series of murders based on the his macabre short stories. But emulating Poe isn’t enough, the killer captures Emily and forces Poe to try and figure out who’s behind the crimes. At his subsequent murder scenes he leaves clues as to his identity and the whereabouts of Emily. The murder also forces Poe to write about the murders, blending fact with fiction so they can be told in the following day’s newspaper column. He wants Poe and himself immortalized in the press.

Are you with me so far?

I found the atmosphere, costumes and quirky nature of Cusack as Poe to be very enjoyable. I love period piece movies, and unlike some, I’m not going to throw a fit because a movie oversteps a few historical details. It claims to be a work of fiction, not a documentary, so getting a few details wrong to push the story along is alright with me. If you put a Ford Mustang on the grounds of Downton Abbey, we have an issue. If you get the wrong color of paint on a building, I don’t care.

This is a slow paced movie that makes multiple leaps to keep the story going. Not everything falls in line from one scene to the next, and the action is just as much focused on Poe writing his account of the murders as the acts himself. In same cases it almost seems like he’s relishing his new muse. He’s inspired to write. The story flows. The ideas leap to the page. He’s once again back in the limelight.

The two things I really liked is that Detective Field isn’t your usual bumbling idiot of a cop so many of these use these days. He’s smart, focused, clever and determined without being an asshole. He has skill and knowledge.

We also have Emily who won’t play the victim. She tries to escape. Uses her wits. Doesn’t give to hysterics and keeps a level head. Also, a nice change of pace from what we normally see of female lead in these kinds of films.

It seems like most people gave this movie a pass. Sadly, I was one of them. But now that it’s available again, I’ve made amends. The story is a little thin, but the atmosphere and acting help to smooth that over. It’s not the type of movie to have you jumping in your seat or scratching your head over the complexities of the killer motives. In fact, when all is said there still won’t be feelings of enlightenment. But as they say, the point of a journey is not to arrive.

Between this and 1408, you might have the makings of a fine night of the macabre with John Cusack.

Raven ~ John Cusack

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