I have been a longtime fan of the writings of Edgar Allan Poe. Not just of the writings but also the entire package of the man, from his behavior as an adult to the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death. Edgar Allan Poe is an enigma and I love that about him.
However, I have not found a movie portrayal of the man, Edgar Allan Poe, that I have thought was worth much of anything. There was the John Cusack in 2012’s The Raven, the series of Poe adaptations by Roger Corman in the 50s and 60s, and plenty of allusions and adaptations of his stories. There has been a lack of the truly iconic performance of this fabled author/poet.
So when I found this horror film on Shudder that used Edgar Poe as a character, I was definitely curious. This fictionalized tale fit into the past of Poe during the time when he was a cadet at West Point and he came across a man horribly attacked, who whispered his last words “Raven.”
Edgar Poe (William Moseley) and four of his fellow cadets took the body to the nearby village, coincidentally (or not so much) named Raven’s Hollow. Once here, the mystery of what was going on in the village led to more death and a supernatural spectacle that informed the life of Poe moving forward.
My favorite part of this movie was trying to suss out all the different allusions made to Poe’s works. Clearly, there were a ton of The Raven references, including the use of the name Lenore, right down to the use of some of the well-known lines from the epic poem as dialogue in the film. However, there were more mentions throughout. One of the characters was named Usher (Oberon K.A. Adjepong), which connects to The Fall of the House of Usher. I caught the use of the line “Love with a love that was more than love” which came from the poem Annabel Lee. One of the victims of the village was chopped up and buried in the floorboards of a house and Poe wound up holding a still beating heart in his hands as happens in The Tell-Tale Heart. I’m sure there were more, but these were the ones I caught.
Unfortunately, the rest of the movie was not nearly as clever as the film attempted to weave in a legend about a mysterious creature called the Raven, something that was more than just a bird. The mystery of this Raven was convoluted and never felt like a clear narrative. I found it too messy to be effective and certainly not when talking about a person such as Edgar Allan Poe.
The character of Poe was lacking in charisma for me. He was fine, but I picture a much darker or troublesome character than what we got. I know the idea is that the troubles and darkness that plagued Poe in his life was supposed to come from this incident, but that did not full work for me.
The Raven creature looked fine, but most of the rest of this film was unremarkable. It was fine and an okay watch, except the fact that it deals with the life of one of the most amazing personas of the 19th century. It felt very surface in many ways, which is not bad, but it is not the standout that I had hoped it would be.
I am still looking for that seminal performance of Edgar Allan Poe. Maybe one day…