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Poe's 'Raven' adapted into historical fiction work for big screen

By Nick Enquist
On April 28, 2012

The classic master of horror and suspense, Edgar Allen Poe seems ripe for film material. Whether it is a simple biography film or an adaptation of some of his classic mysteries like "Tell Tale Heart" or "The Pit and the Pendulum," anything Poe related would be a great idea for a film. So when previews of "The Raven" started coming out, it seemed that Poe would finally have justice on the silver screen.

"The Raven" film is an unusual concept. It is a work of historical fiction, as opposed to an adaptation to the famous poem, which has been attempted in the past but never succeeded. The basic premise is in Poe's (John Cusack) last days as a drunken, bitter critic who is desperately trying to marry the lovely Emily Hamilton (Alice Eve). However, a series of murders have begun that all resemble Poe's famous gore fest of stories.

While the plot is interesting, it isn't well-paced. It moves too fast, and for a good mystery, there needs to be a certain amount of atmosphere to set in. Also the ending twist did come out of left field. It felt like there was a lot of the movie that was cut out, and it probably should have been left in to keep the story at a better pace.

The acting is one of the strongest aspects of the movie. John Cusack does a spectacular job as Edgar Allen Poe. He really captures the madness and misery Poe was said to emulate wherever he went.

All the other actors are really believable as 19th century members of society. Luke Evans portrays an exquisite 19th century detective. The only acting that felt weak was Alice Eve. She doesn't seem to have the right reactions to certain situations, for instance being kidnapped. She plays it off with too calm of a demeanor. It came off as unintentionally hilarious. However, the rest of the cast does make up for the oddities and put on a great show.

The dialogue is very hit-and-miss. The scenes with Poe are done quite well with John Cusack really making the dialogue believable. However the script does have some downright bizarre lines. There are also some unusual moments of humor. Some of it comes off very naturally and makes the darker moments really funny. Other times the funny moments are awkwardly put in and don't come off as funny. Then there are some times, much like Alice Eve's performance, when the serious moments are actually really funny.

The movie is scary and suspenseful. It really captures the essence of the Edgar Allen Poe story. One would expect to be scared and on the edge of his seat, and in that respect the film succeeds. The film does have some extremely gory moments, though, so be warned it may make you sick. At times the gore is over the top, but it still has the shock and awe moments throughout. There is one particularly brutal scene with an actual pit and pendulum.

The film as a whole is extremely stylized. There are lots of slow motion moments and unusual camera angles, in vague attempts to make the movie more "artistic." There is one particularly eye-rolling moment when someone fires a bullet and it moves so slow you can see it in all its 3D, animated glory.

The director, James McTeigue, was assistant director of the "Matrix" movies and made his directorial debut with "V for Vendetta," so his slow motion habits have not completely gone out yet. And sadly they may not for a while. However, the lighting was done really well, playing with shadows and darkness to a point of pure originality. The costumes were also beautiful and believable.

Overall this movie certainly has its moments, with some really cool concepts and great acting. But there are some parts that will leave the audience scratching their heads. The movie has some violent moments so be wary, those who may have a weak stomach. But the movie does succeed in giving a horror vibe and maybe more filmmakers will attempt Poe adaptations. However as a final word on whether or not to see this movie, quoth the Raven, "nevermore" than once.

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