Steen: The Raven is a riveting ‘Ripperesque’ tale

John Cusack stars in new film version of Edgar Allan Poe classic horror story about murder, revenge, torture and insanity.

This fictionalized mystery thriller sees Edgar Allan Poe (John Cusack) and a detective, along with a team of overworked policemen, trying desperately to find a killer whose methods of murder imitate the writings of Poe himself.

Writings I might add that include such titles as The Tell-Tale Heart, Murders in Rue Morgue, The Pit and the Pendulum as well as, of course, The Raven.

Poe himself died on Oct. 7,1849, at the age of 40 and his death has remained a mystery ever since; the circumstances uncertain and the cause disputed.

He died in great distress after being found on a bench on a street in Baltimore.

Poe had left Richmond, Virginia, on Sept. 27 and was on his way to New York. There is no reliable evidence of what happened in the ensuing week and how he came to be found, delirious and close to death.

This film takes place during the week before he died.

While Poe himself was depressed, as well as being a severe and uncontrollable alcoholic, this did not account for the manner in which he was found and has subsequently led to countless fictional retellings and speculations.

In fact, until recently every year since his death, in the early hours of Jan. 19, a presumably male figure would carry a silver tipped cane, raise a toast and place three roses and a partially consumed bottle of cognac on the grave.

Sometimes this was accompanied by a note. This continued to as recently as 2006—a mystery within a mystery.

No appearance was made in January 2012, however.

One of Poe’s works, The Raven, begins:

“Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,

While I nodded nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping…

Quoth the raven, ‘Nevermore.’”

I learned this poem in school and it became a favourite.

If you like dark, Victorian mysteries with multi-dimensional, emotion-driven characters, then you will enjoy The Raven. I happen to like this style and even though gruesome at times, it’s not scary per say, but it does flow and there is always some action.

This is indeed a Gothic tale of murder, revenge, torture, insanity and not much joy, but it is, in a ‘Ripperesque’ way, somewhat riveting.

Cusack is excellent as the almost mad Poe, and Luke Evans as Detective Fields and Alice Eve as Emily Hamilton, Poe’s love interest in the show, all play their roles well.

Cusack is really good and looks like the Poe that has been captured in history books.

Best line: “If I’d known that my work would have this affect, I would have devoted more time to eroticism.” (Well, in context, it’s funny).

What we do know is that he was a prolific author of stories and poems of the macabre and this film identifies just a few in a particularly grisly way.

In competition with other lighter shows, this might not do well, but for something different from the norm, take a chance and go see it—now or nevermore.

I give The Raven three reels.



Susan Steen is a local movie buff.

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