Tone keeps ‘The Raven’ from flying

Edgar Allan Poe is one of the most well-known and important names in American literature. His work has been adapted time and time again for both television and film, most notably by The Simpsons and the legendary Roger Corman. The Raven, the new film from director James McTeigue, has an interesting take.

The film takes multiple Poe stories and intertwines them with Poe’s life, some of which is fact-based and some being fictional, to create a From Hell-like murder mystery.

The Raven takes place in Baltimore in 1849 just around the last few days of Poe’s life. At this point Poe is a poor drunk who hasn’t written anything in quite some time and is quite underappreciated in America. He does have one American fanboy, however, he turns out to be a lunatic madman who begins to murder people in a fashion quite reminiscent of some of Poe’s most well known work.

Detective Fields (Luke Evans) is on the case and sees Poe as a suspect. He calls Poe in and quickly dismisses him as the murderer despite the overwhelming amount of motive he has for killing some of the victims. Fields decides to team up with Poe to track down the killer and from there the hunt is on.

I can’t say I liked nor disliked this film. It’s enjoyable and has some moments I thought were done quite well, but it’s not without it’s flaws.

There seemed to be a tone issue with The Raven. The film was at times dark, which one would expect given the subject matter, but humor was mixed in to varying results. It appears as if the filmmakers wanted to go for a From Hell or Sleepy Hollow feel but something didn’t quite work. The combination of dark and humor missed more than it hit.

The opening and end title sequences were completely out of left field. They didn’t fit the film at all and were strangely placed. The same can be said about the music which seemed as if it were pulled directly from Queen of the Damned, and I don’t have to tell you that that’s a bad thing.

With that being said the film had highlights worth pointing out. The idea itself is very creative. Playing Poe as a detective like character is a nice nod to the man credited with starting the detective genre. All the little references to tidbits from Poe’s life that we know such as the repeating of the name Reynolds to his disdain for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow to his grudge with fellow writer and critic, Rufus Wilmot Griswold were a nice touch that Poe fans will appreciate.

The performances are solid. John Cusack makes a perfectly good Poe and Evans gives a strong supporting performance as Fields. Perhaps with a better script they would have really shined.

The kills are quite nice with a decent amount of gore. Kudos to the studio for not holding back and making this an R-rated film.

I can’t recommend this film as something you should rush out and see. However, if six months down the line you stumble across this on HBO or even see it at the Red Box, then you may want to consider it.

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Chris Coffel

My name is Chris Coffel from Phoenix, Arizona. I love film and the Phoenix Suns. I write movie reviews for Trashwire and write about the Phoenix Suns for Downtown Phoenix Journal. I'm also the co-host of a movie podcast focusing on fringe cinema, the Dark of the Matinee. Please subscribe to my show on iTunes. I write about the Suns here: I make movies here: I talk about movies here:

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