Movie Review

The Raven

MPAA Rating: R for bloody violence and grisly images.

Reviewed by: Ellen Blalock
CONTRIBUTOR

Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Suspense Thriller
Length:
1 hr. 51 min.
Year of Release:
2012
USA Release:
April 27, 2012 (wide—2,000+ theaters)
DVD: October 9, 2012
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Relevant Issues
Copyright, Relativity Media

murder in the Bible

death

justice

justice of God

FILM VIOLENCE—How does viewing violence in movies affect families? Answer

drunkenness and alcoholism

Featuring: John CusackEdgar Allan Poe
Luke EvansDetective Fields
Alice Eve … Emily Hamilton
Brendan GleesonCaptain Hamilton
more »
Director: James McTeigue—“The Matrix,” “V for Vendetta”
Producer: Intrepid Pictures
FilmNation Entertainment
more »
Distributor: Relativity Media

“The only one who can stop a serial killer is the one who inspired him.”

Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

“Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary”… how well I remember those beginning lines of a very scary and long poem written by Edgar Allan Poe. Having read everything written by Poe, I looked forward to a movie filled with more mystery and intrigue offerings from one of my favorite authors.

“The Raven” starts out with Edgar Allan (John Cusack, “2012,” “Hot Tub Time Machine”) alone on a park bench. We then go back a short time earlier where this fictionalized script, written by Ben Livingston and Hannah Shakespeare (“Loverboy”), take us on a “what might have happened” depiction of murder and mayhem in 19th century Baltimore, due in part to Poe’s gothic stories.

The story begins with, and includes, several murders that start to take on the aspect of some of Poe’s written works. Inspector Fields (Luke Evans, “Clash of the Titans,” “Immortals”) investigates the first horrendous murder of a woman and child, involving one of the bodies being stuffed up a chimney, as well as a second one of a man sawn in half by a pendulum. During the investigations, he figures out similarities, and believes there is a connection between the murders and Poe’s stories. Edgar Allan is currently working for the local newspaper as a writer and is brought into the investigation. Thus, between the two of them, they start trying to unravel clues and discover the identity of the killer. Meanwhile, Poe’s romantic interest, Emily Hamilton (Alice Eve, “She’s Out of My League,” “Sex and the City 2”), becomes a victim of the killer who kidnaps and buries her alive in a wooden box beneath the floor. Now Poe is desperate to find the killer and save Emily in the process. He is so desperate that he comes up with a unique plan to exchange his life for hers.

This movie seems to have all of the right elements to make it work. The storyline is somewhat unique, the actors fare well, and the 1800’s movie sets are impeccable. There are parts of Poe’s poems and stories quoted, which add to the dark ambiance of the scenes. Poe acknowledges God, angels, demons and even asks the Lord, at one point, to “help my poor soul.”

That being said, there are things that are bothersome. The characterization of Poe seems a little scattered. One moment he is drinking and whining, the next he is throwing fits and trying to explain his “moodiness” to Inspector Fields by giving an account of his first wife’s agonizing death by tuberculosis. This doesn’t make for a very good “hero” type to save Emily.

The darkness of the movie is slightly depressing, in itself. The music in the background is subdued and unhelpful to the scenes.

There is a lot of time spent on the “bloodiness and gore” associated with the killings. It seems in our day and age, the more grisly a crime can be portrayed, the better filmmakers like it. There are close-ups of wounds with lots of blood, especially the pendulum scene which takes an excruciatingly long amount of time to end. One body found entombed in a brick wall has the mouth sewn shut. We are then treated to a zoom in on the sutures being clipped from the lips and a bloody watch sliding out of the mouth. Emily has bloody fingers from trying to scratch her way out of her wooden box. One policeman has his throat cut and gushes blood for what seems an eternity. Why are we continually dished this drivel?

Alcohol is in abundance—a bar scene, bottles and glasses during several scenes. Poe is depicted as an addicted alcoholic.

The only sexual scene is between Edgar Allan and Emily showing her blouse being untied and some cleavage viewed. They are shown kissing and starting to incline into a prone position which, we presume, leads to the inevitable. At least there is no erotic detail to endure.

There is profanity, although not excessive. The F-word is used, s**t, bi**h, bast**d, hell, d**n a few times. The Lord’s name is used in vain, God-d**n, God, and Jesus being thrown around casually. This is definitely not a movie for children or young teens.

As I look forward to, and attend, movies like these, I wonder about the intent and purposes they have. Mystery movie fans, such as myself, are looking to be entertained in the same fashion as we once were in the beginning of our “experience” with intense storylines. But, as new movies are written and created, we have to endure a menagerie of gore, bad language, sex, and excessive alcohol use. Trying to weed through the garbage to get to the story seems hardly worth it, at times. The Bible warns us to:

“Abstain from all appearance of evil” —1 Thessalonians 5:22.

It’s hard to do so, when it is continually placed before us. If you can close your eyes at the bad parts, go see this film. As mentioned, it has an interesting storyline. It will also make you think more deeply about Poe himself and what a lot of his life must have been like.

Violence: Extreme / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Mild

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive
Positive—First of all, let me say, rather than seeing it in Christian perspective, see it as a thriller Hollywood release. It is an edge of the seat type of thriller and a serial killer movie (funny even the Victorian newspapers in the movie screamed “Serial Killer” on the loose headlines, even though the term was coined in the mid 70s.) Edgar Allan Poe’s works became an inspiration of the killer, who is taunting the author with clues for the life of his beloved.

Regarding the killer leaving the clues for the investigator, it is the best since “The Crimson Rivers” (“Les rivières pourpres”). No need to worry about sex scenes, but gore—you should be prepared. In one scene Poe is accused as an atheist, which he denied, saying the accuser (his lover Emily’s father) misconstrued it… It’s a superb and intelligent thriller with some gore; you should have a strong stomach to go through those scenes.

The movie also has a theme of the ultimate sacrifice as in John 15:13. As a thriller, it builds tension every minute, and those of you, who are the fans of Edgar Allan Poe, or familiar with his works, will enjoy the movie with added exhilaration. Luke Evans is brilliant as Inspector Fields, sometimes outshines John Cusack. I recommend this one to any adult mystery fans.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Cyril Thomas, age 32 (United Kingdom)
Positive—All of the things criticized in this review are all the reasons why it’s such a good film. Edgar Allan Poe’s work was indeed gory and morbid, so why should the cinematography be any different? After the pendulum murder the Poe character actually acknowledges in anger that all the public cares about is the gory details. It would be an injustice to avoid such extremities in the visuals.

Considering how many violent films there are I personally thought they were quite creative, and it was a great chance to see a few highlights of Poe’s work come to life. As for it being depressing, again, it’s supposed to be, that’s the entire point. I thought the bleak, smoggy world set up for us throughout is spot on, and helps the spectator—as one would expect—to better understand the atmosphere of Poe’s work, as well as his mentality.

As for general violence, drinking, sex: all in the Bible, all in humanity. When has it ever been escapable? I would recommend this film particularly to anybody who has read Poe.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Saul (non-Christian), age 21 (United Kingdom)
Neutral
Neutral—I went out to see this movie yesterday. Having read a couple of Poe’s stories, I was curious as to what Hollywood had made out of this author’s life and work. Being a medical student, the violent scenes didn’t really shock me, although I do agree they were a bit exaggerated. It seemed to me that they wanted us to see the grotesque and cruel scenes for as long as possible. The scene of the pendulum for instance was way too long.

The storyline wasn’t very inventive, as well; I would even dare to call it a bit cliché. Not wanting to be over critical, I did enjoy the mystery in itself… not knowing who the murderer is until the end is always a good thing in a thriller. The acting however (especially the actress who played Emily) wasn’t very credible. Some scenes were so dramatic that they became ridiculous, really.

Regarding this movie morally, well, I’d say it reflects most of the movies of our time, in which violence, sex and alcohol are constants. Not a movie to bring your family to see, definitely. On the other hand, this movie did spike my curiosity about the famous author that is Edgar Allan Poe, so that should be a good thing about it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Cristina, age 19 (Portugal)
Comments from young people
Positive—I have always been very interested in Edgar Allen Poe, since I am named after one of his poems. I’ve done research papers over him and read his poems and short stories in my Catholic school. I felt like this movie portrayed him as realistically as they could. Poe was an alcoholic, which explains the large amounts of alcohol in the film. His frequent mood swings and depression were linked to having his wife die in front of him, so there is a lot of credible historical facts in this movie.

As for the sex and gore, compared to many thrillers and horror movies I found it to be more tastefully done than most. The pendulum scene was long and stomach churning but so was his story about it. Although there was some cleavage, I did not find it excessive or distracting, and the kissing scene between Edgar and Emily was short. The costumes and gloomy sets helped capture the melancholy essence of the film. The acting was good, John Cusack and Luke Evans gave great depth to their characters.

All in all, in my opinion if you were looking for a thriller movie that wasn’t too offensive or unmoral I would recommend this movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Helen, age 16 (USA)

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