The Raven (review)
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A short, spoiler-ridden and possibly inaccurate synopsis and short review of The Raven (2012 film), a mainstream multiplex movie, a period film, murder mystery pitting Edgar Allan Poe as the protagonist enlisted by Detective Emmett Fields (not a Poe invention) of the Maryland police department to catch a serial killer who models his crimes on Poe's horror stories including: "The Murders in the Rue Morgue", "The Pit and the Pendulum", and "The Mask of the Red Death", and "A Casque of Amantillado".
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At the start of the story, Poe is broke, cannot afford a drink nor trade on his fame as a writer for one. He is furious with the local newspaper editor who has opted to publish a poem by Longfellow rather than Poe's own work. The editor encourages him to write another gory horror story.
Despite a stagnant career due to writer's block and unchecked alcoholism Poe hopes to marry Emily, a young, beautiful devotee. Captain Hamilton, Emily's father, strenously objects to their coupling. Poe and Fields investigate the scenes of a sequence of Poe-inspired murders but are unable to trace the killer, who leaves clues specifically for Poe. He is apparently an obsessed fan. Fields and Poe expect the killer to strike again at a ball hosted by Hamilton, but instead he kidnaps Emily.
The killer takes another victim in a murder modeled after "The Mystery of Marie Rogêt" leaving a message that Poe must write a new story based on Emily's real abduction to be published the next day in the newspaper. The desperate situation seems to eliminate his writer's block. Poe has no difficultly completing the story as horror is his forté, and the editor is delighted to publish it immediately. Emily's life is spared but the killer demands another installment be published. In this installment, Poe communicates to the killer that he will trade his own life for Emily's.
Enough clues are given to us to realize the killer is one of the characters already introduced, and we can eliminate several characters as suspects. Poe meets with the killer in the newspaper office, thus revealing his or her identity. The killer gives him a poison to drink and a clue to Emily's location, then makes his escape. Poe deduces that Emily is under the newspaper office. He discovers a trap door, climbs down and digs her out of a shallow grave, till alive. Fields and the police arrive and take care of Emily while Poe retires from the scene to take his final moments alone on a park bench. Just before he dies, he gives the killer's name to a passing stranger and tells him to tell Fields. Cut to the near future, the killer boarding a carriage somewhere in France (where Poe was very popular in his day); Fields is waiting for him. The killer moves to attack Fields, but Fields shoots and kills him. Rock music plays over the credits ("Burn My Shadow" by Unkle).
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The film tries to pay tribute to the poet and at the same time follows many conventional moviemaking techniques to appeal to a general audience. The sets and costumes are perfectly convincing; the film is visually and aurally appealing. The dialogue sounds forced at times as do certain plot points; indeed the two problems are often conjoined such as when we are told (rather than shown) by the newspaper editor that "every woman he loved died in his arms" even though we never see Poe remembering his past loves, grieving for them. There are some lovely readings of Poe's poetry, "Annabel Lee" read by Emily(Alice Eve) and "The Raven" read by Poe (John Cusack). Aside from these moments, you could replace Poe with Longfellow and Cusack with Johnny Depp and you'd have something like the 1999 film Sleepy Hollow based on "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" by Washington Irving.