The Raven (15)
Director: James McTeigue.
Starring: John Cusack, Luke Evans, Alice Eve, Kevin McNally, Brendan Gleeson, Oliver Jackson-Cohen and Pam Ferris.
Running time: 1hr 41mins.
THE writings of Edgar Allan Poe give birth to a serial killer in this thriller set in 19th century Baltimore.
Punctuated by scenes of explicit gore, The Raven is suspenseful and tautly paced.
The meat and gristle of The Raven is pure ludicrous invention, opening with a caption that reveals the final days of Poe’s inglorious life were shrouded in mystery.
Yet the film suggests the writer was involved in a high-profile murder case in the days before his untimely and suspicious demise.
Baltimore detective Emmett Fields (Evans) investigates a double murder in a supposedly locked room, where one girl’s body is discovered wedged in the chimney flue.
Fields recognises the similarity to a crime described in a collection of short stories by Edgar Allan Poe (Cusack).
So Fields approaches the writer, a solitary figure who wanders the city streets and pokes at the splayed carcass of a dead cat in order to better understand the animal’s internal workings.
Fields encourages Poe to help him get inside the tortured mind of the killer.
When a second victim is slain and the perpetrator targets Poe’s sweetheart Emily (Eve), the writer gladly accepts the challenge.
The Raven sustains dramatic tension for almost two hours, anchored by a quixotic performance from Cusack as the tortured genius, who confides: “I despise people who despise me”.
Evans is a tad bland and Eve’s damsel in corseted distress is more of a plot device than a fully-fledged love interest.
Director McTeigue (V For Vendetta) has brio when it matters, concealing the identity of the murderer, who quips with understated dry humour, “I used to live for your stories.
“When you stopped writing them, I guess I went a bit nuts”.