Complete A-Z list

Raven, The


Stars: John Cusack, Alice Eve, Luke Evans, Brendan Gleeson, Kevin McNally, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Sam Hazeldine, Pam Ferris, Brendan Coyle

Director: James McTeigue

Once a famous author, Edgar Allan Poe (Cusack) is, according to this, a written-out alcoholic hack journalist in 1849 Baltimore, alienating his local landlord (Downton star Coyle, wasted) and hopelessly in love with society beauty Emma Hamilton (Eve). All at once, a series of gruesome murders begins, seemingly imitating the grislier parts of such Poe opuses as The Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Pit and the Pendulum.

The film starts thunderingly well, but soon disintegrates into shouting matches between Poe and the rest of the world, notably Emma's father (an underpowered Gleeson) and the local inspector (a so-so Evans).

Still, vividly, darkly shot (but not so dark that you can't see what's going on), the film is efficiently made and elaborately costumed, and its killer almost impossible to spot (though where he gets the cash to build imposing torture chambers is anyone's guess).

None of these things, though is necessarily an invite to view, as a certain spark of dynamism seems to be missing; the film appears initially determined to be fast-paced, but quickly loses impetus, and gets especially bogged down amid Eve's attempts to escape a 'premature burial'.

Some fun, though, for genre enthusiasts (although an American-set film with only one American actor in the cast is a bit discomforting), even if most would agree that several of the chase scenes need crisper editing. As for the raven, it does indeed, in Poe's words, quoth nevermore. Or, in modern parlance, it croaks.

David Quinlan

USA 2011. UK Distributor: Universal. Technicolor.
109 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 04 Mar 2012