#264 -- The Raven (2012)

Rating: 4 / 5
Director: James McTeigue

James McTeigue is a name I'd never heard before (not to mention a name that I can't even pronounce). Now I realize that he also directed Ninja Assassin, a movie I absolutely loved. And here is The Raven, a movie that I thought was beautifully made, wonderfully crafted, and incredibly interesting. Though I'd never known about him before, I praise him for the wonderful work that he does.

Every horror fan should be at least a little familiar with Edgar Allan Poe. I'll be the first to admit that I'm no Poe expert, but I know him, and I know that he created some of the most amazing stories ever written. And that's why I was so excited to see The Raven. It wasn't just based on one of Poe's stories, but it focused on a whole slew of them. Not to be mistaken with the 1963 movie of the same name, starring Boris Karloff, Vincent Price and Jack Nicholson (which was also based on Poe's story), it takes place after Edgar had had his run in the writing business. He couldn't get anything published, he was turned down in favor of his arch nemesis, he had no further inspiration for horror, and he just wasn't having any more success. That was, of course, until a serial killer emerged who killed his victims in ways described in Poe's stories. Poe himself was a suspect at first, but once he was ruled out, the police force enlisted him to help. He was the only one who could really gain an insight into the mind of the killer in order to stop any future murders. Poe and the police didn't have much luck to begin with, as the killer was always one step ahead of them. He was very crafty and cunning, and he knew his way around Poe's stories almost as well as Poe himself. When he kidnapped Poe's fiance, Emily, it really hit home, and he started to knuckle down and focus all of his energy on finding the murderer. The killer then started leaving clues with the corpses that would lead to Emily's whereabouts.

As I said, The Raven was a beautifully filmed movie. The set was absolutely beautiful, and it portrayed the era wonderfully. The set, the costumes, and the characters certainly seemed to belong there. John Cusack, who played the role of Edgar, did a fantastic job in portraying what seems to be a very sporadic personality. One moment, Poe was a crazy drunk; the next he was an upset failing writer with a bone to pick with his editor; and the next he was a romantic with a gentle heart. Cusack played all of these parts really well, and I really fell for the character. The other characters, as well, were portrayed wonderful. The part of the concerned investigator in need of saving the community from danger (Luke Evans), the part of the damsel in distress who was a stronger female than most of her counterparts (Alice Eve), and the part of the concerned albeit overprotective father with the notion that no one--especially a low-life horror writer--was good enough for his little girl (Brendan Gleeson). All of the characters were believable and real.

I was also surprised to see that the gore was quite impressive. These days, with so much technology available, it's no surprise that effects look good. But it's rare to find a horror movie with kills that are actually unique and inventive. This one utilized the elements of Poe's stories and crafted kills that were awesome and cringe-worthy at moments. The kills were also intelligent, which is even more of a rarity.

The only thing I didn't like about the movie was how stupid it made me feel. I consider myself a fan of Poe's work, but I never realized just how uneducated I am. I've read several of his stories, but it was still difficult for me to pinpoint them throughout the movie. However, it was definitely fun to try. The only ones I recognized before they were actually revealed were: The Tell-Tale Heart, The Cask of Amontillado, and The Masque of the Red Death. The others, though I have read them, seemed foreign. Still, it was interesting trying to figure everything out. Maybe this is my wake up call. Read more Poe!

In the end, I thought The Raven was definitely a light in the blackness that is Hollywood these days--especially when it comes to horror. In the era of a thousand remakes, it's nice to find a movie that's original, even though it does draw inspiration from other material. It doesn't copy, it doesn't re-boot or re-imagine. It is simply inspired, and it succeeded in being a story of its very own. I applaud the crew for creating something that wasn't Hollywood bullshit, and giving me a new release that I could actually enjoy.

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