Preview: ‘The Raven’

Slipping out from under the hoo-hah surrounding the imminent release of Hammer’s The Woman in Black (2012) comes the trailer for another new chiller which should prove equally exciting to lovers of Gothic horror. The Raven (2012) from director James McTeigue (who cut his teeth on the Matrix and Star Wars franchises) features John Cusack as Edgar Allan Poe in a fictionalised account of the legendary author’s final days, as he attempts to find out who is bumping people off using methods from his own tales of the macabre.

With the police coming to the inevitable conclusion – that he himself is involved – it is up to Poe to discover the true identity behind the enigmatic cloaked figure committing the grisly murders and clear his name before it is his own life that falls into jeopardy. Alongside Cusack, Alice Eve, Brendan Gleeson and Luke Evans are also set to feature heavily.

If the trailer is anything to go by, we are definitely in for a treat. The era in which Poe lived (19th century America), lends itself perfectly to horror – men in long cloaks, horse drawn carriages and candlelit mansions are always more atmospheric than hoodies, four-by-fours and suburban housing estates. It appears that the art design team behind The Raven have captured this perfectly, with plenty of foggy graveyards and storm-lashed country lanes.

Slightly off-putting however is the apparent lack of originality in the story’s premise – after all, murderers using literary plots for inspiration has been done before, most vividly in the Vincent Price camp classic Theatre of Blood (1973). There have also been plenty of films based on the works of Poe, so the murders including the infamous pit and pendulum and being buried alive will likely lack any great shock value. However, if the trailer is anything to go by, these elements are approached with such gusto and lashings of Kensington gore, that you quickly forget you’ve seen it all before.

The whole thing looks to have a Tim Burton-esque tone, visually reminiscent of Sleepy Hollow (1999), to the extent that its a wonder the director didn’t snap up the idea first. However, without Burton’s hand or the presence of any of his ubiquitous gang of regulars, it’ll be interesting to see someone else get the opportunity to give us some Gothic fun. Let’s just hope The Raven lives up to the trailer, lest Poe begins turning in his grave.

The Raven is released in UK cinemas on 9 March, 2012.

Cleaver Patterson