The Raven is a thriller set in Baltimore in 1849, during the mysterious final days in the life of Edgar Allan Poe. The film opens with a woman screaming from her apartment. When the police arrive at her door, they hear the turn of the lock and the screaming stops. When the cops break down the door, they find the woman on the ground with her throat slashed and her daughter’s body hanging from the chimney. The window has been nailed shut from the inside, but there is no one else in the room. Detective Fields (Luke Evans) finds the situation oddly familiar, and realizes it is similar to the plot of an Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.”
Edgar Allen Poe (John Cusack) has recently returned to Baltimore. He is in a bit of a rut, drinking, and his editor is not publishing his work in the local paper—printing works by Longfellow instead. Poe is doing readings of “The Raven” in womens parlors for money. His girlfriend Emily (Alice Eve) is pestering Poe for a proposal, but he is afraid of her father, Captain Hamilton (Brendan Gleeson) who doesn’t like him and doesn’t even know they are a couple. When the police find a second murder, this time via a giant pendulum, Poe is brought in to consult.
Despite the warnings and murders, Captain Hamilton proceeds with his annual costume ball, at which his daughter is kidnapped. The police receive a note stating that Emily will be killed unless Poe prints stories in the local paper, writing what he thinks the murderer will do next. With each new body, the police will receive a clue to Emily’s location. And so begins the cat-and-mouse game as Fields and Poe tam up to catch this serial killer who’s using Poe’s stories for inspiration. While Poe takes a profiler approach, trying to get into the head of the killer, Fields relies on forensic science. They hope that combining these two approaches, they can identify and stop the killer.
The Raven is cleverly written and visually stunning. The writers have done a really great job of weaving in references to Poe’s works while also crafting an intricate mystery for Poe and Fields to solve. Since much of Poe’s final days still remains a mystery, the writers also had fun with the script, working in all of the various theories as to Poe’s demise.
This film reminded me a lot of the movie Se7en. In both films, two men are hunting for a serial killer murdering people in gruesome ways based on a well-defined set of criteria. In Se7en, it was vices, while in The Raven it is the works of Edgar Allen Poe. Within the film, this works to add suspense. At the costume ball, Fields doesn’t know what story the killer is going to reference next, so any reference to Poe’s works he see’s becomes suspect. As a viewer, you also experience this paranoia, guessing along with Fields.
I really like the look of “The Raven”. The scenery is amazing, and really captures the 1840s. Despite the fact that it takes place in Baltimore, the movie was filmed in Eastern Europe, which helps add to the Sherlock Holmes mystery feel to it. The locations and sets, lighting and use of fog all add up to a beautifully creepy film.
As for the performances, I thought Luke Evans and John Cusack were both great and worked well together. There were also a lot of great “hey I recognize that guy from that film” type guest stars. If I had one complaint it was that at the beginning of the film, Poe is made out to be this drunk, drug-addicted guy, but for the rest of the film there is hardly a trace of this or any kind of darkness. In fact, he’s often joking around. For example, when he first hears about the serial killer, his reaction is, “It appears my writing has become the inspiration to an actual killer. Quite gruesome, really. If I would have known my work would have had such a morbid effect on people, I would have devoted more time to eroticism.” While I liked this less dark side of Poe, it was unexpected based on all the stories I had heard about Poe when I was a kid.
Overall, I enjoyed The Raven. The film was visually appealing and the mystery was interesting. I recommend checking it out.
- Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD MA
- Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
- Video: 2.40:1 Widescreen, 1080p
- Audio: English 5.1 DD
- Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
- Video: 2.40:1 Widescreen, 480p
Digital Copy for iTunes/Android
- Deleted and Extended Scenes (10:41)
Six deleted and extended scenes: “Poetry Reading” (1:57), “The Red Mask” (:38), Emily’s Recital” (:43), Fields Checks on Poe” (4:29), “Poe Brings Carl to Fields’ Home” (1:38), “Doctor Clements and Fields” (1:02). The deleted (and extended portion) of these scenes are so short that they don’t really add anything to the plot or narrative, execpt for the last one, which should probably have been included in the film.
- The Raven Guts: Bringing Death to Life (13:32)
Behind the scenes featurette in which the cast and crew talk about the story, the characters and the life of Edgar Allen Poe. They also discuss the casting process, show how they used Budapest and Serbia to create 1849 Baltimore, and how they created some of the more elaborate sets and effects for the film.
- The Madness, Misery and Mystery of Edgar Allan Poe (9:50)
Interesting mini-documentary on the life of Edgar Allan Poe narrated by the curator of the Edgar Allan Poe Museum and a Poe scholar.
- Behind the Beauty and Horror (2:18)
Short featurette that seems more like a promotional ad that summarizes the plot film and introduces the cast.
- The Raven Presents John Cusack & James McTeigue (2:45)
John Cusack and James McTeigue interview each other, answering why each chose to work on this project, and their feelings about Poe.
- Music for The Raven: The Team (5:10)
Director James McTeigue and the music team talk about creating the soundtrack of the film. Includes footage of the orchestra performing as well as the recording and editing process.
- Audio Commentary by the Director and Producers (1:50:29)
Director James McTeigue, producers Marc D. Evans, Trevor Macy and Aaron Ryder provide insights and behind-the-scenes tidbits during the film. This is a really fun and interesting commentary. The guys talk about the cast, locations, music and writing. They also share some of their filming tricks and homages made in the film, as well as some of the alternate takes and scenes that were left on the cutting room floor.
- Theatrical Trailer (1:15)
- Sneak Peek (10:32)
Trailers for House at the End of the Street, The Blu-ray Experience, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, Sound of My Voice, Act of Valor, American Horror Story Season 1
The Raven looks great—even though quite a bit of the film takes place in the dark, the picture remains crisp and clear, and quite visually stunning. I didn’t notice any of that blue-ness you sometimes get with really dark scenes. The DTS soundtrack also does a great job transporting the viewer into this world.
The bonus features included on this Blu-ray are a mixed bag. There are a pair of interesting featurettes, but the deleted scenes and shorter featurettes hardly add anything. The commentary is really interesting, and one of the better ones I’ve heard.
Overall, I found the film interesting, visually it was a treat, and it kept me guessing until the end. It’s definitely worth checking out, especially if you are a fan of serial killer thrillers.