Movie Review: The Raven
Disclaimer: I’m a total Edgar Allen Poe fangirl. He’s been and influence for much of my writing life. I even have a tattoo of a raven, sitting on a bust of Pallas on my right shoulder. See it and read my post about tattoos here: https://jessicazellman.wordpress.com/2011/10/04/ink-a-needle-in-your-skin-let-the-world-know-where-youve-been/
I was introduced to Poe the same way as many other things. As the second youngest child of six, my older siblings influenced my taste in music, television, movies and yes, books. In this case, an older sister was reading Poe and decided I should know about The Black Cat. Also, “The Bells” and of course, everyone’s favorite, “The Raven.” Later that year, she bought me a leather-bound collected works which has an honored place on my bookshelf to this day. I devoured those tales like a favorite snack. Sherlock Holmes had offered some intrigue and gore, but Poe went much further. I loved him immediately.
I remember frowning at the pendulum at the Franklin Institute because it had no mechanism for starting out high and lowering with each swing. In high school, we saw The Fall of the House of Usher performed at what was I presume, a local theater. Also, An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge and another short piece which I don’t remember, possibly because I so loved the other two and was less familiar with that one. That rare field trip (Thank you, Mrs. Birch.) awoke my passion for theater and just increased my love of Mr. Edgar Allen Poe.
So I was delighted to learn that a movie about my favorite early master of the macabre had been made. I hoped Johnny Depp would play Mr. Poe, but it was John Cusack. Sigh.
The story is worthy of a Poe tale. A murderer is on the loose in Baltimore. The deaths are gruesome (as befits Poe) and inspired by various tales by the author himself. The Pit and the Pendulum was an early favorite of mine and the movie’s depiction did not disappoint. The ticking clock arrived when Poe’s girlfriend was kidnapped and the murder demanded an account in the local paper depicting a fictional solution to Poe’s real problem.
There were twists and turns in the path. Poe’s desperation pushed him close to madness and Cusack played this well. There was one moment where the writer had a chance at being an action movie hero. The police detective shouted “Find him, Poe! GO!” A high speed (on horseback) chase through a fog filled forest ensued. Had it ended there, with Poe shooting the bad guy and finding his beloved easily, I would have walked out in disgust. But it didn’t. There would be a few more turns of the screw.
As is appropriate to any Poe tale, this one did not have a happy ending. Justice may have been done, but the hero did not go riding off into the sunset with the heroine by his side. Nor should he have done. This isn’t fairy tale land after all, this is Poe’s world, where life is grim and hard, and often ends senselessly without reason other than evil does exist. In fact, it is often found in each of us.
“And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.”
One post script, as the credits rolled, Ian Astbury’s voice soared and echoed eerily through the theater. Since he’s one of my favorite singers, I was thrilled. Here’s the song, if you care to give it a listen. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eRyzZJML78