The Raven DVD Review

Edgar Allan Poe famously wrote “Never to suffer would never to have been blessed.” If this is the case, then The Raven made me feel truly blessed.

John Cusack stars in this truly terrible thriller by V for Vendetta director James McTeigue, which follows the fictionalised events leading up to Poe’s mysterious death in 1849.

Found in a delirious state on the streets of Baltimore, Poe died several days later having never resumed full consciousness. The film opens with the discovery of a murdered mother and daughter, where the circumstances strike the assigned detective as familiar.

It seems the inspiration behind the murder is a short story by one Edgar Allan Poe.

So far, so relatively intriguing.

We’re then introduced to Mr Poe, the infamous father of the fictional detective genre and inspiration to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the French Symbolists of the late nineteenth century alike.

In the first few scenes, we follow Poe from a tavern brawl brought about by his frustration at no-one having heard of his work, to the newspaper that publishes his reviews and stories.

It’s here we discover that Poe is well and truly washed up, an alcoholic hack with extreme writers block.

It’s a difficult thing to do, bringing a well-known figure to life in a mainstream film. Striking the right balance between fact and fiction usually hinders the plot in some way, which inevitably brings about criticism from overzealous fans and biographers.

But The Raven’s script is so dreadful that not even the usually brilliant Brendan Gleeson, who plays the father of Poe’s love interest, can make the clunky dialogue flow with any hint of authenticity or suspense.

John Cusack doesn’t have the acting prowess to subtly move between Hollywood protagonist and literary genius, even less so as an anti-hero making statements like, “Philistines! You wouldn’t recognise an authentic American literary voice if it hissed in one ear, and slithered out the other!”

And the result doesn’t sit well amongst the flimsy plot.

Now I’m not a film snob; I like a decent, two dimensional thriller as much as the next girl. And a half-hearted performance from the lead doesn’t necessarily make a film bad.

But when you add an equally soul-less cast to the ludicrous plot holes in The Raven, what you get is an instantly forgettable dud.

If it’s gore and suspense you’re after, I’d recommend getting your teeth into some of Poe’s short stories instead of wasting your time on this offering.

Claire Coveney

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