Edgar Allen Poe film, ‘The Raven,’ sick, sensational

On October 7, 1859, Edgar Allen Poe was found dying on a park bench in Baltimore, Maryland. The days leading up to his death are still a mystery.

This stands as one of the only historical accuracies in director James McTeigue’s massacre-mystery about one of America’s greatest poets and literary pioneers. “The Raven” takes inspiration from Edgar Allen Poe’s work, and shapes a fictional mystery about his life and death.

Poe (John Cusack) exists as a financially struggling writer, notorious alcoholic, and general nutcase in the Baltimore community. He demands respect and notoriety with no absence of confidence and vigor, but mostly finds ridicule from readers who mock most of his writings, save for his treacherous and grisly tales of agonizing human death.

One unknown reader, though, takes particular liking to Poe’s twisted tales. Following a series of unimaginable and elaborate murders, Police Detective Fields (Luke Evans) determines that the slayings are, in fact, inspired by Poe’s writings.

With this knowledge, Fields recruits Poe to trace the relentless murderer before he can claim more victims, including one in particular who means more to Poe than anyone else in the world.

The film rapidly thrusts viewers into gory murder scenes without spending too much time on story development. That isn’t to say, though, that there lacks a solid framework for the beautifully crafted killings to sit upon.

Each death is delivered whole-heartedly, avoiding cut-aways that would have watered down the brutality that is sure to churn the stomach of any viewer. The devotion to terror is satisfying and shocking, giving this film something to brag about for being a non-Halloween season horror release.

While Cusack does his best to deliver justice to the infamous Poe, he does so with a questionable amount of whimsy. His performance makes for a likeable protagonist, but creates difficulty for audiences to believe that the dialogue of such elaborate prose could really come from the mouth of a Willy Wonka-type literary character. Still, there is enough artful story-delivery to keep viewers entertained throughout.

Costuming spares no expense in this movie, and audiences will revel in the grandeur of an authentic masquerade ball complete with a masked horseman hell-bent on killing the mood – and maybe some party-goers.

The early-American industrial city feels more like eighteenth-century London that finds itself housing a hostile community of elites who all deserve a taste of humility – or a beheading.

While Poe fanatics will enjoy physical representations of the horrors formerly only existing on paper – including “The Telltale Heart” and “The Pit and the Pendulum” – the overall plot is an original fiction not unlike that found in “Titanic.”

Taking an American legend’s mysterious death and adding a justification for what has always been shrouded in mystery is a monstrous task. Fortunately for “The Raven,” the film is successful in providing a thrilling and chilling trip back in time.

The bulk of a viewer’s enjoyment comes from the race to the finish rather than the actual solution at the end, which could have been altered or left out altogether. However, there are plenty of jumps, gasps and even some laughter to be had throughout the course of this well-conceived ride.

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