In 1849, the famed horror writer Edgar Allan Poe (John Cusack) was discovered in a delirious state, his whereabouts for the last week a mystery; he never recovered and died soon after. But what had happened in that missing week? To find that out we must go back a few days as the Baltimore police were rushing to the scene of a crime in the middle of the night, hoping to catch a killer in the act. They burst into a room in a tenement to see a dead woman lying on the floor, but felt there was someone else in there with them - yet this murderer was far more devious than anyone they had ever encountered...
Although maybe not as unique as the characters might have thought as they invented the serial killer decades before Jack the Ripper was even heard of, and all for a villain that the filmmakers could apply to your basic horror thriller with a period flavour. The selling point here was to posit a theory about what Poe had been up to in the time leading up to his mystery demise, although what they came up with was less historical and more hysterical, getting poor old Edgar to race around Baltimore for a week - and this in spite of his alcoholism and general depressive demeanour - in the run up to his inevitable passing.
So if you believed this you were gullible to say the least, but part of the fun here was slapping an actual person down into a fictional scenario, all the while saying yes, this may have been preposterous but can you prove it didn't happen? Sort of like Criswell in Plan 9 from Outer Space. Anyway, you wouldn't be watching this for pinpoint accuracy, you'd be checking it out for the novelty of seeing Cusack as Poe acting out a nineteenth century version of Seven, only with Poe's texts as the basis for the killer's twisted ideas rather than the seven deadly sins. Which, you had to admit, was pretty ridiculous, but where it could have taken the giddy approach director James McTeigue and his team adopted a graver style.
To the extent that what could have been a Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes revisionist runaround equivalent, apparently wanted us to take them very serously. This was a flaw, because there was a pompous tone to The Raven; not that they should have gone the route of the nineteen-sixties version of The Raven with its silly comedy and spoofy air, but to present this so sincerely seemed at odds to what they were telling us to accept about the celebrated author they were building their plot around. This turned out to be a whodunnit as well, though you'd be hard pressed to notice for most of it and when the killer was unmasked they had to resort to having them explain who they were in case they hadn't registered with the audience.
In the meantime, there were Poe references galore for the fans to either be entertained by or roll their eyes at. If anything, this resembled a Dario Argento shocker, except unfortunately not one of his seventies or eighties cult favourites, but one of his more recent, coasting on past glories efforts, so you had the gore but the absurd plot twists were more of a burden than a delight. Also appearing were Luke Evans as the police inspector who Poe teamed up with to fight crime, or one specific series of crimes at any rate, and Alice Eve who shaped up to be the love interest, daughter of Brendan Gleeson's Captain Hamilton, when abruptly she is kidnapped not long into the movie and left under some floorboards for the best part of the rest of it. So if Alice wasn't having a great time of it in a role like that, Cusack was at least an interesting choice for the lead, although his bone deep melancholia did come across as an irritable nature, and the last ten minutes with his redemption were poorly handled. Jules Verne?! Music by Lucas Vidal.