The Raven stars John Cusack as the famous author and poet Edgar Allen Poe, towards the end of his life leading up to his mysterious death, in which he helps track down a serial killer who murders his victims in the style of the infamous brutal killings within the novels Poe wrote.
The Raven opens with the dark images of a CGI infested Baltimore, presenting us with a drunken and washed up Cusack as Poe. Cut to the first of many murder scenes and immediately we’re presented with what we believe to be the tone of the film; a detective ‘whodunit’ theme with a mystery element to the murders. On the whole, the opening establishes that this film may actually provide thrills and chills with an interesting take on the last days of a famous author’s life. If only things remained this positive.
As the film progresses we see Poe’s demise into further alcoholism and a plain and simple lack of caring, although in a strange way he’s likeable, partly due to Cusack doing a decent job with the character. Unfortunately, no other characters are remotely as compelling, or even given any sort of screen time to become developed enough to like. From here on we’re thrown into what is the first of many of the films problems.
It seems The Raven is more imitator than originator, not knowing what tone to stick with or what theme to follow. A rather gruesome end to one man’s life with a gigantic swinging axe wouldn’t be out of place within a Saw film, and seems rather contrary to the subtle opening where the audience is in fact shown nothing of the murders. The inconsistency of the killings continues and the plot weakens with each murder, not least due to the unbelievable coincidence of the killings.
Poe manages to regain his passion for writing in such times – a neat trick considering his future wife has been kidnapped – and somehow manages to find the time to print articles in the paper, lend his hand to the detective, whilst also feeding his alcohol obsession. Historical inaccuracies aren’t the problem; the beauty of film is that we are given the ability to alter/change facts within the history timeline, but the problem lies in the fundamentals. The screenplay is weak, the plot is extremely inconsistent and convenient, and certain scenes seem to have been added purely for the sake of it (two scenes featuring a raccoon come to mind).
There was potential for the film to shine, but it seems it just couldn’t find its own identity, instead opting to imitate (rather poorly) numerous other thrillers. The whole point of a ‘whodunit’ is that we need to see the killer-to-be at least on screen for some time to give that element of shock and surprise when we discover they’re the killer, but this rule seems to have been forgotten. There are moments that show potential and John Cusack does well with the role, but the rest of the cast is overshadowed by a poor script that is neither compelling nor remotely original.