Take a dash of Theatre of Blood, a splash of Seven and a fistful of From Hell, give it a good shake, drain out all the juice and you’ve got The Raven – a bizarre, deeply unsatisfying fictionalised account of the last days of Edgar Allan Poe.
John Cusack stars as Poe, and it’s hard to recall this actor giving a more uninterested performance. Languishing in nineteenth-century Baltimore and making a meagre living as a newspaper hack, Poe is soon back on the front page when a killer begins copying death scenes from the great author’s most famous stories. Teaming up with young detective Fields (Luke Evans), Poe must convince the local constabulary he’s not the killer, while simultaneously trying to prevent any more deaths.
For the first hour or so, The Raven trundles along inoffensively: the characterisation is slight and the script rather plodding, but the visuals are suitably brooding and stormy. There’s at least one inventive death scene and it’s always nice to catch cameo turns from the likes of Brendan Gleeson and Pam Ferris. But then the plot begins to unravel. The final unmasking is idiotic and it all wraps up with a hilariously unconvincing coda. It’s impossible to shake the feeling that The Raven has been badly knocked about in post-production, resulting in a film that, despite a strong visual sense, has simply no grasp on its characters or its plot. ‘Nevermore’, indeed. Tom Huddleston