John Cusack makes a great Edgar Allen Poe. From the beginning of this masterfully executed thriller directed by a deft James McTeigue, suspense grips you. The somber sets and lavish costumes add intrigue to this period piece set in 19th century Baltimore. A series of murders occur. Detective Fields, played with aplomb by Luke Evans, is assigned to find the victim's serial killer. Grisly it is at times.
The pit and the pendulum murder could give you the desire to walk out, but this macabre event was all part of Poe. I feel this violent and gory scene is justified to show what he created. His mind at work. This particular murder is of a critic who wrote a scathing review for the newspaper which published Poe's work. During the pendulum's descent as blood gushes, the victim cries out, "Why are you doing this. I'm only a critic."
After the first murder, Poe becomes a suspect because it is evident that the crimes are based on his writing. When Detective Fields confronts him, Poe replies, "Is imagination now a felony?" The wit in the writing by Ben Livingston and Hanna Shakespeare helps to balance the grisly moments in this film. Their writing has the spirit of Poe.
At the onset of the film Poe cavorts in a bar and it is apparent that he has a severe drinking problem, but he used alcohol to create.
Another problem is that he is in love with Brendan Gleeson's daughter played with the right amount of coyness by Alice Eve who is Emily Hamilton. Gleeson portrays Captain Hamilton who is the town's wealthiest. Gleeson struts and gloats in his role and is thoroughly a joy to watch as a blowhard. Captain Hamilton loathes Poe as he believes Poe is the murderer. Meanwhile Emily wants to marry Poe despite her father's objection.
Emily plans to tell her father at a masked ball he is throwing, but during this ball at which Poe is disguised as a guest, she is abducted. Poe becomes the suspect , but soon everyone works together to find the beauteous Emily. The costumes by a talented Carlo Poggiolo at this ball heighten the gotta-find -the-killer atmosphere. Cat and mouse is played throughout the film and it becomes fun to guess the who done it, to whom and why. The Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Masque of the Red Death are referenced and add intrigue...
The Raven's poetic climax is satisfying and solves the riddle poignantly. The Victorian era shown in somber lighting amidst eerie sets by Kerrie Brown add to the suspense and the gratification of having viewed a true mystery with its riddles that at times rest in where else? -- a graveyard.
Catch this one along with a strong elbow to escort you through the terror. If a good creep out done with style is one of your guilty pleasures, see The Raven.