The Raven - DVD Review

'Cusack may over-act wildly but the subtle support of Gleeson - and a surprisingly adept Luke Evans - pull the film back in to some sort of reality'

Gothic murder-by-candlelight, the foggy streets of Baltimore, John Cusack and Brendan Glesson, Alice Eve as the damsel in distress. It's a wonder that people seemingly approached The Raven with such demonstrable pessimism. At least on face value, there's a lot to like about James McTeigue's surprisingly gory metatextual work; both theoretical biography of Edgar Allen Poe (Cusack) and tick-box exploration of some of his most famous works. With smart execution, surely this was at least worth the benefit of the doubt?

In fact, The Raven is worth very much more than the benefit of the doubt, McTeigue's exploration of Poe proving to be both somewhat chilling and substantially mystery-filled enough to muster appropriate levels of your attention. Cusack may over-act wildly but the subtle support of Gleeson - and a surprisingly adept Luke Evans - pull the film back in to some sort of reality, Poe's characterisation easy to write off as the flourishes of a creative spirit, oft-imbued with a mind-altering substance.

The first act is the strongest, taking place far before Eve is marginalised from the plot and featuring an interesting three-way battle between Poe's unpredictability, Captain Hamilton's (Gleeson) reserved candour and Fields' (Evans) hard-working intelligence, plus the anonymous antagonist stalking the city, most vividly bought to life during the recreation of The Pit And The Pendulum. That McTeigue is happy to go all out with his gore here is commendable - the Poe source story demands it - but it also calls in to question his tone and leaves him problems elsewhere. Whether it is needed or not, crimson liquid is forced into the plot increasingly, as McTeigue looks to keep up the pace from his earlier 'delights' of staging.

The end too is something of a problem, telegraphed by the opening titles, McTeigue can do little about it and The Raven whispers out without the poignancy of the director's earlier Gothic trip in V For Vendetta. Still, enough of interest goes before it to justify more interest in this than there seemed at the time of its cinema release, an injustice it shares somewhat with the similarly maligned From Hell, a close cousin of the style at work here.


  1. I missed this in theaters but 3/5 stars is enough for me to justify a dvd watch. The comparison to From Hell seems apt and was one thing I worried about (wasn't a fan) but I won't feel guilty watching this one at home.

    Also glad to hear some love for Evans!

    1. Definitely worth a rental for me. Let me know what you think. I was really surprised by Evans. He's very solid here in a decent role. I'm hopeful now for his Bard the Bowman in The Hobbit.